In recent years evolutionists have increasingly promoted the evolution of whales as one of the most convincing examples of macroevolution. Their alleged evidence is a mounting number of fossils that they claim are of transitional creatures in this process. In the debate about this subject, creationists have generally focused upon these same creatures, particularly specific details of their anatomy. In essence, the debate boils down to evolutionists explaining why they believe these creatures are ancestors of whales and creationists explaining why they can’t be. Although this issue merits discussion, focusing too much attention upon it is somewhat myopic, for there is another area of investigation that deserves considerably more attention, which is the process that supposedly created these transitional creatures in the first place.
This process is the central focus of this paper. Focusing primarily upon genetics, in particular mutations, it demonstrates that the evolutionists’ theory of whale evolution is not only flawed, but absurd. Although evolutionists agree that mutations are instrumental in the process of evolution, they generally include genetic drift, migration, genetic recombination, and natural selection as other contributors to the process. This paper demonstrates exactly why these other processes are all ultimately dependent upon mutations for the changes that are supposedly required. According to evolutionary theory, however, the ultimate initiator of the changes must be not only mutations but very specific mutations, beneficial ones. It will be shown that, according to evolutionists’ own descriptions, beneficial mutations do not create what is absolutely necessary for the process of whale evolution: entirely new physiological features, ones that would require DNA that never before existed.
Keywords: whales, evolution, mutations, genetic drift, migration, genetic recombination, and natural selection, Pakicetus.
Ever since the theory of evolution was introduced by Charles Darwin’s seminal book, The Origin of Species, proponents of the theory have been faced with a dilemma: if mammals evolved on the land, how can there be mammals living in the seas (cetaceans)? At first, this appeared to be a particularly perplexing problem for evolutionists. In recent years, however, the perspective has taken a radical turn. Evolutionists now claim that this transition from a four-legged land mammal to a whale is one of the best evidences of evolution that exists. The following appeared in an article entitled “How Did Whales Evolve?” at the website smithsonianmag.com:
For more than a century, our knowledge of the whale fossil record was so sparse that no one could be certain what the ancestors of whales looked like. Now the tide has turned. In the space of just three decades, a flood of new fossils has filled in the gaps in our knowledge to turn the origin of whales into one of the best-documented examples of large-scale evolutionary change in the fossil record. (Switek 2010)
In the book Evolution and the Fossil Record, Pojeta and Springer say this about this subject:
During the 1990s our understanding of whale evolution made a quantum jump. In 1997, Gingerich and Uhen noted that whales (cetaceans) ... have a fossil record that provides remarkably complete evidence of one of life's great evolutionary adaptive radiations: transformation of a land mammal ancestor into a diversity of descendant sea creatures. (Pojeta and Springer 2001, 22)
The literature on this subject is replete with similar claims.
According to the story, whales evolved from a four-legged, land-dwelling mammal that lived about 50–55 million years ago. An obvious question is, “Why wouldn’t it be theorized that whales evolved from fish, say a shark?” After all, whales look much more like sharks than creatures that lived on land, such as wolves or small hippos. Furthermore, fish dwell in the same environment as whales: water. Whales, however, are mammals, and evolutionists do not believe that mammals could have evolved from fish. Simply put: whales, they believe, must have evolved from such creatures because whales are mammals and because, prior to the evolution of cetaceans (marine-dwelling mammals), all mammals supposedly lived on land and had four limbs.
In order to get a general idea of what evolutionists believe about whale evolution, the following descriptions are helpful. The first is from a small book about whales by Bunting. Although it was directed primarily toward children, at the time it was written it offered a rather accurate summary of what evolutionists believed about whale evolution:
Between 50 and 100 million years ago, when the world and many of its creatures were primitive, the ancestors of whales walked the land. They were not animals that we would recognize as whales. Their heads and tails were more like those of dogs. They had bodies covered with fur, and they had four legs. They were small, too, probably no bigger than a person, although there were no humans around then for comparison.
It is likely that they waded in shallow waters near shore, sometimes swimming the edges of the sea in search of food. Gradually, their search took them farther and farther from shore. Their bodies grew more streamlined for easier swimming. Fur, which was warm when dry, but cold and heavy when wet, gradually disappeared. It was replaced by blubber (fat) under the skin. Whale blubber can be as much as two feet thick. It helps hold in heat, keeping the whale as warm as if it wore a giant overcoat.
The whale’s front legs evolved into flippers which guide the body while diving and turning. Their back legs disappeared altogether. And their tails widened to become the broad, fan-shaped flukes which whales stroke up and down to propel themselves through the water.
Their heads changed, too. The nostrils, which had been at the tip of the nose, as they are with all land animals, moved to the top of the head and became blowholes. Now whales can breathe easily while speeding along on the surface. (Bunting 1980, 8–10)
In the late 1990s this tale took a new turn. Rather than evolving from a furry wolf-like mammal, a mesonychid or Pakicetus, the ancestor of the whale was changed to an artiodactyl (one of the even-toed ungulates, or hoofed animals, that includes pigs, camels, deer, giraffe, hippos, cattle, and many others). Here is a more-recent description:
Despite disagreements over methods, molecular evolutionists are now at one on the whale's family tree. The story goes like this. First there was an ancestral even-toed ungulate. Then the family tree split between camels and all the rest. Next the pigs and peccaries split off, followed by giraffes and deer, leaving just the ancestor of all hippos. Romping in the water, some hippos ventured into the ocean. These seafaring hippos then branched into the two superfamilies of the baleen whales (finbacks and blue whales) and the toothed whales (dolphins and porpoises). (Wade 1999, 48)
The idea that, romping in the water, some hippos ventured into the ocean . . . and became whales, is an extraordinary claim, to say the least. The question, of course, is, Is it true?
The identity of the whale's land-dwelling original ancestor has undergone many revisions over the years, and its size and appearance has ranged broadly.
The identity of the whale's land-dwelling original ancestor has undergone many revisions over the years, and its size and appearance has ranged broadly. Of course, no matter what is selected here as the whale’s earliest ancestor, evolutionists can seize upon the selection as a reason to discount this entire analysis, on the basis that the original ancestor was actually something else. It would be a red herring, and it can be repudiated by pointing out the number of changes that evolutionists themselves have made in the identity of this creature. Charles Darwin even thought that it may have been a bear! The description below indicates the uncertainty surrounding this creature. It is typical of the evolutionists’ thinking about this matter.
The first thing to notice . . . is that hippos are the closest living relatives of whales, but they are not the ancestors of whales. In fact, none of the individual animals on the evogram is the direct ancestor of any other, as far as we know. That's why each of them gets its own branch on the family tree.
Hippos are large and aquatic, like whales, but the two groups evolved those features separately from each other. We know this because the ancient relatives of hippos called anthracotheres (not shown here) were not large or aquatic. Nor were the ancient relatives of whales that you see pictured on this tree — such as Pakicetus. Hippos likely evolved from a group of anthracotheres about 15 million years ago, the first whales evolved over 50 million years ago, and the ancestor of both these groups was terrestrial.
These first whales, such as Pakicetus, were typical land animals. They had long skulls and large carnivorous teeth. From the outside, they don't look much like whales at all. However, their skulls — particularly in the ear region, which is surrounded by a bony wall — strongly resemble those of living whales and are unlike those of any other mammal. Often, seemingly minor features provide critical evidence to link animals that are highly specialized for their lifestyles (such as whales) with their less extreme-looking relatives. (Understanding Evolution website)
The mention in this last paragraph of the anatomical features of a Pakicetus is a good example of the common focus upon such details in the debate between creationists and evolutionists that was mentioned at the beginning of this paper.
For this discussion, in line with many of the accounts of this process, the whale’s “earliest” ancestor will be identified as Pakicetus, which looked rather like dogs, or wolves, with hoofed feet and long, thick tails. “Straddling the two worlds of land and sea, the wolf-sized animal was a meat eater that sometimes ate fish, according to chemical evidence.” (American Museum of Natural History website 2013). This creature will be called the Progenitor (capitalized for easy identification). A Google search of “images of whale evolution” will generate many images of this creature and other similar ones.
In regard to the identification of the whale’s original ancestor, a very important point must be emphasized: The specific identification of this creature is irrelevant to the conclusions arrived at in this paper, for they are equally applicable no matter what this creature was.
The time it took for this creature to supposedly evolve into a whale is not particularly clear. This is understandable, of course, because both the date of its earliest ancestor and the date that the evolutionary process was completed are completely speculative. Generally speaking, however, most evolutionists’ seem to be of the opinion that the Progenitor entered the scene about 50–55 million years ago. Estimates for the length of the entire process range from about 10–25 million years. Hans Thewissen, a recognized authority on whale evolution, states that, “The entire evolutionary sequence, from little Indohyus diving into streams, to modern cetacean-like basilosaurids took about 8 million years.” (Thewissen 2014). For the sake of discussion, this period will be estimated to be ten million years.
As we have just seen, the identity of the original ancestor is uncertain. In any event, the average lifespan of a wolf is about ten years, a cow about 15–25 years, a hippo about 45 years, and a whale about 40–60 years. If it is assumed for discussion purposes that the average lifespan of the creatures involved in this process was 30 years and that a generation, the average age of reproduction, was approximately 10 years, there would have been about one million (10 million years∕10) generations during the entire process. At the beginning of the process, the life span of the creatures would have been about 10–25 years, while at the end it would have been about fifty years.
The process of whale evolution would have required a vast number of physiological changes in the creatures that participated in the process. Needless to say, these changes must have had a cause. According to the acclaimed evolutionist Ernst Mayr, and many others, “It must not be forgotten that mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation found in natural populations and the only new material available for natural selection to work on” (Mayr 1970, 102). A popular, contemporary evolutionist, Douglas Futuyma, heartily agrees with Mayr:
All genetic variation owes its origin ultimately to mutations . . . (Futuyma 2013, 235)
Dr. John Sanford, an avowed creationist, has a decidedly different opinion of mutations:
In conclusion, mutations appear to be overwhelmingly deleterious and even when a mutation may be classified as beneficial in some specific sense, it is still usually part of an overall breakdown and erosion of information ... mutations, even when coupled with selection, cannot create new information. (Sanford 2005, 28)
How can something that is completely random and overwhelmingly deleterious produce the extraordinarily complex and wonderful physiological features of whales, most of which were completely absent in their original ancestors?
In addition to believing that mutations are “overwhelmingly deleterious,” creationists also believe that mutations are essentially random. Surprisingly, evolutionists generally agree with creationists about these characteristics of mutations. At the same time, however, evolutionists also believe that mutations are the ultimate source of all genetic variation. There appears to be an obvious contradiction here. How can something that is completely random and overwhelmingly deleterious produce the extraordinarily complex and wonderful physiological features of whales, most of which were completely absent in their original ancestors? One solution to this apparent problem is to simply declare the power of mutations to perform this extraordinary feat in spite of the obvious reasons that should prohibit it. In other words, to simply ignore the obvious contradiction. A good example of this is found in the following statement from Hermann Joseph Muller, widely regarded as both the greatest geneticist of the first half-century of the subject and also one of the greatest evolutionists of this period:
It is entirely in line with the accidental nature of natural mutations that extensive tests have agreed in showing the vast majority of them to be detrimental to the organism in its job of surviving and reproducing, just as changes accidentally introduced into any artificial mechanism are predominantly harmful to its operation . . . It is nevertheless to be inferred that all the superbly interadapted genes of any present-day organism arose through this process of accidental natural mutation. (Muller 1955, 331)
Evolutionists do, however, have a more reasonable explanation for this dilemma. Although they agree that the overwhelming majority of mutations are deleterious, they nevertheless believe that not quite all of them are. They believe that occasionally a mutation can actually result in a survival advantage for a creature and that enough of such mutations over a long enough period of time, say ten million years, can result in the descendants of a Pakicetus turning into a blue whale. Such mutations are given the label beneficial.
As the title of this paper suggests, this author believes that such a notion is utterly ridiculous. He also believes that the facts about mutations are more than sufficient to completely invalidate the theory of whale evolution. He is well aware, however, that such a position would not impress evolutionists, because they agree with Futuyma (2013) that “All genetic variation owes its origin ultimately to mutations.” The mutations Futuyma refers to here are obviously beneficial ones.
With this background in mind, it will be demonstrated why the theory is fatally flawed even if Futuyma’s statement about mutations were true. Next, the story will be analyzed with the creationist view of mutations in mind (see Appendices A and B). This will rip off any remaining trace of respectability from the story and fully expose its utter absurdity.
The lack of credibility in the idea that beneficial mutations are capable of performing the miracles attributed to them by evolutionist is fully discussed in Appendix A of this paper. Those not familiar with the weakness of this notion might want to read this section of the paper before continuing.
About 55 million years ago a small dog-like mammal was living near the shore of a lake, or sea, in an area now known as Pakistan: Pakicetus. Unbeknownst to him, he was destined to become a very famous creature in the annals of evolutionary history: the original ancestor of the whale. In order for this amazing process to begin, of course, this creature had to undergo a change. It didn’t have to be a major change, for the process had plenty of time to complete its work: ten million years. Nevertheless, something had to happen to this Pakicetus to get the process underway. A mutation was required, one that would make a tiny contribution to the eventual evolution of a creature that lived in the sea, looked absolutely nothing like him and weighed 500-4,000 times what he did. The mutation could have caused any number of changes. Let us imagine that the change was a shortening of its legs.
In regard to the variation of an organism’s physiological features, it is generally accepted, especially by plant and animal breeders, that there are strict limits to these variations. It may not be certain exactly what these limits are—they may not have been reached yet—but empirical evidence strongly indicates that they exist. An article from the University of Berkeley website “Understanding Evolution” refers to cheetahs to explain this truth:
Selection can only operate on the available genetic variation. A cheetah might run faster if it had "faster" alleles — but if faster alleles are not in the population from mutation or gene flow, evolution in this direction will not happen . . . Perhaps a different arrangement of leg muscles and bones would produce cheetahs that run faster — however, the basic body form of mammals is already laid out in their genes and development in such a mutually constrained way, that it is unlikely to be altered. There really may be "no way to get there from here."
In contrast to the evidence noted above, the shorter legs proposed for the Pakicetus must have been a variation that falls outside of the variation range for leg length in this animal. In other words, it must not have been the result of the normal nucleotide arrangement in the DNA of the Progenitor, because its purpose was to introduce a change in the Progenitor that would eventually result in something that would be totally unique for Pakicetuses: the complete elimination of legs. It would only have been possible through the introduction of an entirely new arrangement of nucleotides in the alleles that controlled the creature’s leg length, of new information, in other words. According to proponents of this story, this introduction must have been the result of a mutation. The problem with this situation—and it is a devastating one—is that, as Dr. Sanford pointed out, mutations are not capable of introducing entirely new genetic information; they can only act upon the arrangement of nucleotide base pairs in DNA that already exists.
Consequently, the very first step in the story of whale evolution is extremely improbable. Of course, this improbability is ignored by promoters of the story, as proven by the fact that the story continues. It should be kept in mind, however, that every one of the extraordinary features that are required for this process to eventually succeed must overcome exactly the same obstacle faced by this very first one, which is that the information, the genetic code required for their development, did not exist prior to its introduction. The change that the mutation introduced, in other words, must have been entirely unique to the population in which it occurred.
Eventually, of course, the legs of the Pakicetus’ descendant must be completely eliminated, for whales do not have legs. Just as obviously, this alteration could not have been the result of a single mutation-induced change. That is, it could not have been the result of a Pakicetus giving birth to an offspring with no legs! Even if such a mutant were possible, its life would be very short, to say the least, and it certainly would not have produced any offspring. Thus, the elimination of legs must have been gradual, the result of a series of harmonious mutations. How many is anybody’s guess.Mutations that drive evolution are supposed to confer upon their recipients a survival advantage in the present.
Right away, a problem arises. Mutations that drive evolution are supposed to confer upon their recipients a survival advantage in the present. Theoretically, this survival advantage is the very thing that causes these individuals to be selected, by natural selection, for survival. You know . . . The Survival of the Fittest. An article in the Encyclopedia Britannica remarks, “In natural selection, those variations in the genotype that increase an organism’s chances of survival and procreation are preserved and multiplied from generation to generation at the expense of less beneficial ones. Evolution often occurs as a consequence of this process.” An obvious question arises: if Pakicetus was a carnivore, as evolutionists generally believe, that had to chase down its prey, how could shorter legs possibly result in a survival advantage?
Slightly shorter legs may not have caused a noteworthy disadvantage, but at some point along the way, the legs would have had to have been totally eliminated. It is completely obvious that if this happened while the creature was still living on the land, he would have been at a very severe disadvantage, to put it mildly. But this is true of any significant shortening of the legs. The only way this problem could have been overcome would have been for the whale’s early ancestor to have become fully aquatic while its legs were still almost full length. But that immediately creates another equally problematic scenario: a fully aquatic creature with four fairly long legs. Those who may argue that such a feature could actually be beneficial because its possessors would be at home on both the land and in the water are missing a basic requirement of the process: at some point the relevant creature must become totally aquatic. A fully aquatic creature does not need legs, especially fairly long ones. Providing a reasonable explanation for the scenario that resulted in the complete elimination of the Pakicetus’ legs presents a serious challenge to evolutionists.
Only from a teleological perspective, from awareness of its ultimate result—a whale—could any change that initiated the evolution of a whale from a four-legged land mammal be considered a survival advantage and could the mutation that caused it be considered beneficial. But evolution is not supposed to have a teleological basis. Only changes that provide an advantage in the present are allowed into the process (“the concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology . . . ” (Futuyma 2013, 285)). Even more debilitating to the story is the fact that this same judgment applies to a great many of the morphological changes that supposedly occurred in the creatures involved in the process. Only in the latter stages of the process, when the creatures were supposedly approaching their ultimate goal, a whale, could it possibly be claimed that any of the changes provided an immediate survival advantage. But wait . . . Goal? Have we forgotten already? Evolution has no goals!
So, then, it appears that any change in the phenotype of the original creature that would be beneficial for the evolution of a whale probably would not be beneficial for this creature. Shortening of the legs is only one example. Many others can easily be imagined. This immediately introduces another problem. Nonbeneficial mutations, especially harmful ones—which would include virtually all of those that occurred prior to the latter stages of the process—always tend to be bred out of populations. The technical name for this process is genetic homeostasis. It is described in the book The Neck of the Giraffe:
Ernst Mayr, who remains convinced that small-scale gene substitution is the answer to evolution, conducted one striking piece of research on Drosophila which, ironically, seemed to demonstrate the opposite. He selectively bred successive generations of flies to try to increase or decrease the number of bristles they grew, normally averaging 36. He reached a lower limit, after 30 generations, of 25 bristles; and an upper limit after 20 generations, of 56 bristles. After that the flies rapidly began to die out. Then, Mayr brought back non-selective breeding, letting nature take its course. Within five years, the bristle count was almost back to average.
This resistance to change has been given the label genetic homeostasis and elsewhere in the literature there is an even more mysterious example. In a remarkable series of experiments, mutant genes were paired to create an eyeless fly. When these flies in turn were interbred, the predictable result was offspring that were also eyeless. And so it continued for a few generations. But then, contrary to all expectations, a few flies began to hatch out with eyes. Somehow, the genetic code had a built-in repair mechanism that re-established the missing genes. The natural order reasserted itself. (Hitching 1982, 57)
Thus, since the Progenitor’s shorter legs would have provided him with no survival advantage over the others in his group, as time passed it is far more likely that this change would have been bred out of his group rather than being passed on. Critics might argue that abeyance of the process doesn't present a major problem, because before long it could be initiated by another, probably different, mutation (shortening of the hair, perhaps) in some other member of the population. However, this suggestion ignores the fact that, just like the hypothetical mutation that caused the creature’s shorter legs, any other mutation would be subject to the same problems that plagued the original one:
I am still not convinced that there is a single, crystal-clear example of a known mutation which unambiguously created information. There are certainly many mutations which have been described as beneficial, but most of these beneficial mutations have not created information, but rather have destroyed it. (Sanford 2005, 17)
In any event, regardless of what the initial mutation was—and it could have been many things other than shorter legs—it is virtually certain that it would not have conferred any survival advantage to the creature in which it occurred, which means, of course, that, as stated above, natural selection should not have favored it, and genetic homeostasis should have eliminated it.
Although the very early mutations could have been random, very soon the options would have become increasingly restricted, because, unbeknownst to them, they were contributors to the development of a very specific creature, a whale. The total number of possible mutations is unknown. It is certainly very large, perhaps approaching infinity. Although the number of mutations that hypothetically played a role in the evolution of a whale would undoubtedly have been in the millions, it was, nevertheless, a very small percentage of all possible mutations. Even so, just by chance, these mutations ended up being precisely the ones that the process required! As extremely unlikely as this would have been, its improbability becomes much greater due to the fact that all of these mutations would have had to have occurred in a very specific chronological order.
To illustrate this point, imagine a sculptor working on a marble figure. Of course, the artist has a specific image in his mind of what the final figure will look like. Nevertheless, there are many options for the first chip. It could be almost anyplace on the block of stone. Similarly, there would have been many options for the first change that supposedly took place in the evolution of the whale, for there certainly were a lot [of] changes that needed to be made. As the sculpture develops, however, the process becomes increasingly dictated by the image that the artist has in mind. In the same way, in a process that supposedly resulted in a whale, the options for the mutational changes would have become increasingly dictated by the goal of the process, a whale. Changes that by nature are random must give the appearance of being directed. Furthermore, and this dramatically increases the implausibility of the process, not only do the changes become increasingly restricted—because they must attain specific goals—but their timing also becomes increasingly dictated by the end result. The mutation that completes the whale’s fluke, for example, must come only at the very end of the process. It couldn’t come at the beginning, because at that point there would have been no need for a fluke. How would a process that was completely random happen to introduce every one of the vast number of beneficial features required by its end product, a whale, at exactly the right time? Random genetic changes that just happened to result in a fluke would be extraordinary enough. The fact that they would have had to occur in exactly the right order at exactly the right time stamps the process as being utterly unbelievable.
This analysis of the very first mutation in the process leads to a virtually indisputable conclusion: Whatever the physiological changes were in the early stages of whale evolution, according to evolution's own rules, natural selection should not have favored its recipients. The process should never have begun. According to evolutionists, however, because of the remarkable power of beneficial mutations, the process did begin. So our analysis continues.
Genetic homeostasis and the requirement that any changes must confer a survival advantage to the recipients are hardly the only potential hurdles in these creatures’ paths. Among the others, the most significant is, quite simply, survival. The infant mortality rate of most animals in the wild is fairly significant. Among wolves, for example, it is 30–60 percent. It cannot be known what this rate might have been supposedly fifty million years ago, but it certainly would have been a factor.
The significance of this factor must not be overlooked here, for, if the Progenitor failed to survive, it would undoubtedly be a long time before there would be another relevant mutation (remember, the vast majority of the relevant mutations must have been contributors to entirely new physiological features, and this type of mutation is exceedingly rare, if they even exist at all: see discussion of beneficial mutations in Appendix A). No matter when it occurred, however, infant mortality for all of the relevant creatures in the process would play exactly the same role it did with the Progenitor. Even if the Progenitor survived its infancy, there would have been many other dangers that could have also terminated its life as it matured: predators, disease, accidents, and natural disasters. And do not forget that the Progenitor was the ONLY member of its group that received this mutation (Jeanson 2017, 244). If he died before producing an offspring, the process would go back to square one.
Regarding predation, certainly during the earlier stages of the process, the essential creatures, the ones that received the decisive mutations, would undoubtedly have been easy prey for one of the large carnivores that were supposedly prevalent at this stage of history. Generally speaking, whether living on the land or in the water, these creatures would be ill-equipped for defense because they would not be fully adapted to their environment. They would either be strange-looking land dwellers that had acquired some of the physical features of an aquatic creature or sea-dwellers that retained some of the features of a Pakicetus or a small hippo—or a wolf, or a cow. In either case, they would be easy prey. It is well known that predators tend to focus their attention on the weaker members of a population, those that are less able to defend themselves.
Another potential problem for both the Progenitor and every other Main Player in the process involves the selection of a mate and the production of offspring. Needless to say, if the mutationally induced changes are to be passed on to a descendant, the receptors of these changes must both find a mate and produce offspring. But this is hardly guaranteed, for creatures living in the wild do not always do these things (neither do humans!). Furthermore, as (or, to be more precise, if) the creatures in the process slowly evolved into entirely different ones, there must always have been a member of the opposite sex that was evolving along with him, or her. Thus, all of the potential stumbling blocks that lay in the way of the primary creatures must be multiplied by at least two. Every stumbling block that lay in wait for one member of the mating pair also lay in wait for the other.
Of course, the shortened legs of the Progenitor did not result from a mutation that took place in his own DNA while he was living. It took place in the gamete, or reproductive, cell of one of its parents. If it finds a mate and reproduces, the allele controlling this feature will combine with another allele at a specific locus on the chromosomes of the mating pair, the one that controls leg length. The other allele will not be programmed for shorter legs, of course, because neither of the mate’s parents would have been subject to the relevant mutation (“When the mutation first occurs, it likely occurs in a single individual.” (Jeanson 2017, p. 244)). If the allele specifying shorter legs is dominant, the offspring will inherit this characteristic. However, if it is recessive, this characteristic will not be passed on. According to Sanford, “’most mutations are recessive, which makes selection much more difficult.” (Sanford 2005, 62). This leads to the obvious conclusion that, even if the Pakicetus with shorter legs is able to successfully reproduce, which is far from a certainty, the odds that his shorter legs will be inherited are slight. Needless to say, this is true of every breeding event in the entire process of whale evolution, presenting still another extraordinary hurdle for the process.
Another potential stumbling block in the process is the fact that members of a population with a detrimental abnormality, which would include all recipients of the decisive mutations for a large portion of the process, would be at a disadvantage in their effort to find a mate.
Another potential stumbling block in the process is the fact that members of a population with a detrimental abnormality, which would include all recipients of the decisive mutations for a large portion of the process, would be at a disadvantage in their effort to find a mate, for normal members tend to reject such individuals. So, then, if it is highly problematic that the very first step in the process would have been completed, how likely is it that every one of the tens of thousands, or millions, of additional steps would have been?!
One potential stumbling block of the process has not yet been mentioned, and it may actually be more devastating to the theory than any of the previously mentioned ones. As this analysis has made very clear, over the ten million years that supposedly transpired during the process, an extraordinary number of changes must have occurred in the physical features and the size of the creatures involved. Needless to say, these changes were not only vast in number, they were dramatic. In regard to size alone, the change was astonishing, from about one hundred pounds to 50,000 pounds, or more (blue whales can weigh over 400,000 pounds). While these changes were taking place in the exterior appearance of the creatures, however, all of their interior physiological systems—nervous, musculature, bone, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, etc.—would have had to have been changing simultaneously and in perfect coordination with both the exterior changes and with each other. The changes included the creation of extraordinary new features, none of which existed in the whales’ original ancestors (a partial list of such features is provided below). And just as random mutations must have been the cause of these changes in the creatures’ exterior appearance, they must also have been the cause of all of the changes in these interior systems, because, as pointed out repeatedly, in evolutionary theory, mutations are the ultimate cause of virtually all changes in the physiology of living creatures. The vast number of additional changes that must have taken place in coordination with the exterior changes, in other words, would not have occurred automatically. They could only have resulted from changes in the creature’s DNA—countless changes, all happening simultaneously. As the creatures grew in size and changed dramatically in physical appearance, every bone, every muscle, every detail of every feature would have to grow in perfect harmony. And every required change would have to be the result of a completely random and beneficial mutation! A little reflection should make it clear that as great as were the number of changes required in the exterior appearance of the creatures, the number of changes required in the interior systems must have been even greater—most likely, much greater.
The late Stephen Jay Gould was one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the 20th century and perhaps the best known since Charles Darwin, according to his New York Times obituary. In 1996 he wrote an essay about a famous giraffe evolution story in his Natural History magazine column. It is a powerful corroboration of the point made in the preceding paragraph. It is quoted at length, because of the exalted reputation of its author and the relevance of his remarks to this paper:
I made a survey of all major high-school textbooks in biology. Every single one - no exceptions - began its chapter on evolution by first discussing Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characters, and then presented Darwin’s theory of natural selection as a preferable alternative. All texts then use the same example to illustrate Darwinian superiority - the giraffe's neck. Giraffes, we are told, got long necks in order to browse the leaves at the tops of acacia trees . . . available to no other mammal. Darwinian evolution may be both true and powerful, but if we continue to illustrate our conviction with an indefensible, unsupported, entirely speculative, and basically rather silly story, then we are clothing a thing of beauty in rags - and we should be ashamed . . . If we choose a weak and foolish speculation as a primary textbook illustration . . . then we are in for trouble . . .
Even if we assume that the giraffe's neck evolved as an adaptation for eating high leaves, how could natural selection build such a structure by gradual increments? After all, the long neck must be associated with modifications in nearly every part of the body - long legs to accentuate the effect and a variety of supporting structures (bones, muscles, and ligaments) to hold up the neck. How could natural selection simultaneously alter necks, legs, joints, muscles, and blood flows (think of the pressure needed to pump blood to the giraffe's brain)? To drive blood eight feet up to the head, the heart is exceptionally large and thick-muscled, and the blood pressure is probably the highest in any animal. But when the giraffe bends its head to the ground it puts great strain on the blood vessels of the neck and head. The blood pressure plus the weight of the blood in the neck could produce so much pressure in the head that the blood vessels would burst. Pressure sensors along the neck's arteries monitor the blood pressure, and can activate other mechanisms to counter the increase in pressure as the giraffe drinks or grazes. Contracting artery walls (with increasing muscle fiber toward the head), shunting part of the blood flow to bypass the brain, and a web of small blood vessels (the rete mirabile, or "marvelous net") between the arteries and the brain all serve to control the blood pressure in the giraffe's head.
The lungs are oversize to compensate for the volume of dead air in the long trachea. Without this extra air-pumping capacity a giraffe would breathe the same used air over and over. The giraffe's lungs are very large and it breathes slowly, which is necessary in order to exchange the required large volume of air without causing windburn to the giraffe's 12 feet of trachea.
Red blood cells in a giraffe are about one-third [larger than?] the size of human red blood cells, providing more surface area and a higher and faster absorption of oxygen into the blood. This helps to retain adequate oxygen in all extremities, including the head . . . Giraffes provide no established evidence whatsoever for the mode of evolution of their undeniably useful necks . . . Giraffes have a sparse fossil record in Europe and Asia . . . and the spotty evidence gives no insight into how the long-necked modern species arose. . . .
The standard story, in fact, is both fatuous and unsupported. In the realm of giraffes, current use of maximal mammalian height for browsing leaves does not prove that the neck evolved for such a function . . . Why then have we been bamboozled into accepting the usual tale without questioning? I suspect two primary reasons: we love a sensible and satisfying story, and we are disinclined to challenge apparent authority (such as textbooks). (Gould 1996, 18–23, 54–57)
The key question that Gould is addressing in this article is, “How could natural selection build such a structure by gradual increments?” His emphatic answer to this question is, obviously, it couldn’t have. Of course, if it is so obvious that the neck of the giraffe could not have evolved as a result of gradual increments, it should be far more obvious that a whale could not have evolved from a four-footed land mammal through such a process.
The irrationality of whale evolution comes into sharp focus by simply reflecting upon the period between the first two decisive mutations. This is because most of the critical details of this initial period would be repeated in the time period between all of the decisive mutations. Thus, whatever stumbling blocks that would have existed in this initial period—and we have seen that there would have been very serious ones—would exist in all the remaining ones. As difficult as it would be for the process to proceed from only the first step to the second, the difficulty would have to be multiplied by the total number of mutations required by the process. The reason this is true is that, no matter how many members of the population may have maintained the change caused by the previous decisive mutation, only one of these would be the recipient of the next one (“When the mutation first occurs, it likely occurs in a single individual.” (Jeanson 2017, 244)). At every step in the process, therefore, the situation is precisely comparable to the one in which the Progenitor appeared. Every potential hurdle that stood in the Progenitor’s path would also stand in the path of all of his descendants: thousands, or millions, of them.
A key requirement of the tale of whale evolution is a vast amount of time. In many respects, however, this vast time period presents a monumental logistical problem for the hypothesis. It is well known that in the recorded history of the earth, not much more than 4,000 years, there have been significant changes in animal populations. The rate at which species become extinct is extremely speculative and ranges from a low of 1–5 to a high of 1,000 or more per year. In a November 26, 2017, article in the Washington Post, R. A. Pyron, associate professor of biology at George Washington University, claims that “99.9 percent of all species that have ever lived, as many as 50 billion, have already gone extinct.” According to an article on the Smithsonian web site, “Judging from the fossil record, the baseline extinction rate is about one species per every one million species per year,” which, based upon the articles’ estimate of approximately eight million current species, extrapolates to about eight per year. Whatever the correct number is, however, one thing is certain: species do become extinct, and a great many have. Furthermore, depending on shifting climactic conditions and other environmental changes, animals sometimes relocate to new locations. From ancient records, we know that many creatures that were common in the Middle East thousands of years ago have long since disappeared.
From a common sense perspective, given the great changes that we know occur naturally in animal populations, including extinction, in four thousand years, is it really reasonable to assume that the process involved in the evolution of the whale could possibly have survived uninterrupted—that is, without a single extinction event—for ten million years?
The point is that we know from empirical evidence that great changes in animal populations, including extinction, can take place in four thousand years. In the supposed evolution of the whale, however, this amount of time would complete only .04 percent of the process. From a common sense perspective, given the great changes that we know occur naturally in animal populations, including extinction, in four thousand years, is it really reasonable to assume that the process involved in the evolution of the whale could possibly have survived uninterrupted—that is, without a single extinction event—for ten million years? Of course, if an extinction did occur, the process would have to revert back to the previous stage of development, and the creatures at that stage, if they still existed, would have to wait for another mutation that would move the process forward. The frequency of extinction events, of course, suggests that in ten million years this problem could have cropped up many times, presenting still another significant hurdle for the process.
The conclusion is clear about the story of whale evolution: In regard to the potential for extinction, time is not the hero of the plot, as the celebrated evolutionist George Wald famously claimed in 1954; it is its enemy. (Wald 1954, 48)1
Until this point, this critique has accepted the evolutionists’ claim that the process of whale evolution was driven by beneficial mutations. As we have seen, even if this premise is accepted, there are many reasons why the process could never have happened.
As problematic as the story is when viewed from this perspective, when a more realistic understanding of beneficial mutations is taken into consideration (see Appendix A), the credibility of the story plunges to zero. This is clearly demonstrated by looking at the amazing physical features of whales and comparing them with the features of its original ancestor. A partial list of these features is:
These features are obviously highly developed and extraordinarily complex. However, none of them were inherent in Pakicetus or any of the other creatures that have been suggested as the whale’s original ancestor. Because mutations are the only source of genetic change, all of them, therefore, must be attributed to mutations. The creation of these entirely unique features, however, requires the introduction of new genetic information, and mutations are incapable of this:
In conclusion, mutations appear to be overwhelmingly deleterious, and even when a mutation may be classified as beneficial in some specific sense, it is still usually part of an overall breakdown and erosion of information . . . mutations, even when coupled with selection, cannot generally create new information. (Sanford 2005, 28)
Based upon the perspective presented by Sanford, mutations are utterly incapable of producing a single one of these features, much less all of them. It must be kept in mind that the process is not being driven by single mutations acting in a linear fashion. Because a multitude of features must have been developing at the same time, a multitude of mutations acting simultaneously and in perfect concert would have been required. It is truly difficult to find words that adequately capture the absurdity of such a truly fantastic scenario. An analogy comes to mind.
Following the trend in today’s automobile production plants, a future such facility becomes completely automatic. The entire assembly is controlled by robotics directed by highly advanced computer programs and artificial intelligence. The cars are not inspected until they come off the assembly line, completely finished. One day the inspectors at the end of the assembly line were astonished, for out of the factory appeared a huge luxury liner, all ready for its maiden voyage. Investigation revealed that a massive virus had infected the program that controlled the production process, resulting in an explosion of errors throughout the process.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” the flabbergasted chief inspector said. “A crippled computer program resulting only in a massive stream of errors ends up creating an ocean liner. It’s utterly absurd!”
As is the idea that millions of random, deleterious mutations could cause the descendants of a Pakicetus to evolve into a whale.
A further look at the echo-location system referred to above puts a final stamp of authority on the above claims:
One amazing feature of most echo-locating dolphins and small whales is the ‘melon,’ a fatty protrusion on the forehead. This ‘melon’ is actually a sound lens—a sophisticated structure designed to focus the emitted sound waves into a beam which the dolphin can direct where it likes. This sound lens depends on the fact that different lipids (fatty compounds) bend the ultrasonic sound waves traveling through them in different ways. The different lipids have to be arranged in the right shape and sequence in order to focus the returning sound echoes. Each separate lipid is unique and different from normal blubber lipids, and is made by a complicated chemical process, requiring a number of different enzymes.
For such an organ to have evolved, random mutations must have formed the right enzymes to make the right lipids, and other mutations must have caused the lipids to be deposited in the right place and shape. A gradual step-by-step evolution of the organ is not feasible, because until the lipids were fully formed and at least partly in the right place and shape, they would have been of no use. Therefore, natural selection would not have favored incomplete intermediate forms. (Sarfati 1999, 69–70)
According to evolutionists, the primary feature of beneficial mutations is that they enhance the survivability of creatures. That is,
Beneficial mutations lead to a higher fitness and hence per definition to more offspring of their bearer. Unfortunately, these beneficial mutations are rare and thus difficult to study. (Imhof and Schlötterer 2001)
It is very obvious, however, that such a definition falls woefully short of explaining the existence of the features of whales listed above. Every one of them is entirely new, for none of them were inherent in Pakicetus. In order for this process to have succeeded, the beneficial mutations that supposedly drove it must have been capable of doing far more than simply enhancing the ability of their recipients to survive. They must have been able to introduce into DNA entirely new information that would produce entirely new physiological features. There is no evidence that they are capable of doing this.
The idea that the superb features of whales referenced in the above list could have been “created” by random mutations, almost all of which are harmful, is not just completely unreasonable: it is breathtakingly absurd. There is not one shred of empirical evidence that an entirely new physical feature, one that never existed before, has ever been initiated by a mutation. Needless to say, in order for the descendants of a creature similar to a Pakicetus to evolve into a whale, mutations would have to be the catalyst for the evolution of thousands of such features.
The only thing this lineup demonstrates is that there is a morphological similarity in the skeletons of those creatures that appear to be in close proximity to one another.
A question could arise here: What about the lineup of creatures that are in the ancestry of the whale (such as those shown in Appendix C of this paper)? Doesn’t the fact that they didn’t become extinct prove that, in relation to the evolution of whales at least, the argument regarding extinction is invalid? No, it doesn’t. The only thing this lineup demonstrates is that there is a morphological similarity in the skeletons of those creatures that appear to be in close proximity to one another. Any suggestion that one of them evolved from the one immediately above it is purely speculation.
In his seminal book, In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order, Ian Taylor explains that the lineup of creatures involved in the evolution of the horse was originated by Othniel C. Marsh in the 1870s. Taylor writes the following about this event:
Marsh’s paleontological claim to fame rested on his discovery of thirty different kinds of fossil horses in Wyoming and Nebraska during the 1870’s. He reconstructed and arranged these fossils in an evolutionary series and put them on display at Yale University, where they remain to this day. It was said that this was the series of skeletons depicting the evolution of the horse that convinced T.H. Huxley of the reality of evolution. Copies of this series are to be found in every major museum, and, visually, it does look very convincing as proof of the transition from the little three-toed animal to the modern single-toed horse. All is not as simple and clear-cut as it is made out to be, however, since the actual evolutionary sequence will differ from one authority to another. Not only that, but the sequence of mounted specimens differs from one museum to another, all of which indicates there is a great deal of uncertainty and speculation about the whole thing. For example, the number of rib bones does not follow the supposed sequence, and the creatures are not always found in the expected sequence in the fossil record; that is, sometimes the smaller creature is found in the higher strata.
When all is said and done, however, a row of look-alike fossils cannot be proof that one species changed into another . . . Acknowledging all the enormous amount of work that men such as Henry F. Osborn and G.G. Simpson have put into the horse series, the sad fact remains that what has been done is to select the fossil data to fit the theory, and this cannot be considered scientific proof. It is little wonder, then, that Raup (1979) makes the comment that the evolution of the horse in North America has to be discarded or modified. (Taylor 1984, 152–153)
I believe that the creation of the lineup of the whale’s ancestors precisely parallels that of the ancestors of the horse and that the former is just as fraudulent as the latter.
Revealing comments on the lineup of the whale’s ancestors recently appeared in a course description at the University of Indiana:
CAUTION: Unfortunately, students may come away from this lesson with the mistaken conclusion that each of the intermediate whale forms were in the direct (lineal) line of descent between the land-dwelling tetrapods and fully aquatic whales. IN REALITY, it is most likely that these “transitional forms” were only “collateral” (cousin-like) ancestors, but showing features that were likely found in their “cousins” that did evolve into modern whales. This subtle distinction may seem unimportant, but to assume that fossils generally fit into a lineal (direct) line of descent conveys the erroneous impression of the long-outdated “Ladder of Evolution” concept. Rather, students should recognize that what we are seeing are the vestiges of many side branches in a diverse BRANCHING TREE of evolution.
Furthermore, students should focus more on the mosaic accumulation over time of a series of new features modified (derived) from ancestral features over time, not the species per se. The fossil remains collected simply reveal that those respective features existed in those related species at that period of time. (as quoted by Lacey 2020, chapter 17 of Glass House: Whale Evolution—emphasis in the original)
Although the author of this quotation, obviously an evolutionist, is reluctant to directly state it, this evasive statement essentially acknowledges that the widely publicized lineup of the whales’ ancestors does not reflect reality.
In summary, over a period of about ten million years a process that began with a four-footed hairy land mammal that weighed about one hundred pounds and included a vast number of intermediate creatures, ended with a creature that lived in the sea, looked absolutely nothing like his original ancestor, and reached a length of one hundred feet and a weight of 400,000 pounds (National Geographic article, “Blue Whale,” n.d.).
The astounding number of changes that took place in this transformation were said to be caused by mutations that were entirely random and almost always harmful.
The crucial significance of the fact that all of the mutations in the evolution of the whale were random2 cannot be emphasized enough, for not only is it an indisputable feature of the process—because, according to evolutionary theory, that is the only type of mutation that exists—but a little reflection reveals that it critically undermines the entire theory. This paper has described several reasons for rejecting the evolutionists' tale about whale evolution, but the fact that all mutations are entirely random is more than sufficient by itself to completely invalidate it. The others are simply icing on the cake.
A number of times in this paper the evolutionists’ tale of whale evolution has been referred to as “absurd.” Some may think that this term is too harsh or confrontational, that another less combative term might be more appropriate. I respectfully disagree. The intention here is not to just demonstrate that this story of whale evolution is highly, or even extremely, unlikely. It is to demonstrate that it is exactly what it has been labeled: absurd—that is, in the world as we understand it today, it is completely impossible, and claiming that it is possible is preposterous.
As noted earlier, the evolution of whales from four-legged land mammals has been touted by many evolutionists as one of the best evidences for the theory of evolution. This belief is very far from the truth. As this paper has explained, when the process is carefully analyzed, it becomes apparent that the theory of whale evolution is actually so improbable that it becomes, well, absurd. At the beginning of this paper a comment from Switek was quoted. It claimed that “the origin of whales [is] one of the best-documented examples of large-scale evolutionary change in the fossil record” (Switek 2010). A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one of the strongest links in the chain of evolutionary theory is composed of tissue paper, what does that say about the whole chain?
As mentioned previously, the debate between creationists and evolutionists regarding the evolution of whales generally focuses upon the 7–10 major “transitional forms” promoted by evolutionists. A brief description of these forms is included in Appendix C. Linking these forms must be an untold number of still other creatures that were the recipients of the specific decisive mutations that caused the physiological and morphological changes that the process required. What happened in the periods between these latter creatures is the unique focus of this paper, and it exposes the entire theory of whale evolution as a foolish hoax.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:22–23 NASB)
It is reminiscent of a famous story written by Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen in 1837, “The Emperor's New Clothes.” It is about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent—while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes,” no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn't wearing anything at all!”3
Just as the weavers have fooled the people into believing that they have made the emperor a beautiful new suit of clothes, when in fact they haven’t made anything at all, evolutionists have fooled people into believing in the story of whale evolution, when in fact, the story exists only in their imaginations.
Just as the weavers have fooled the people into believing that they have made the emperor a beautiful new suit of clothes, when in fact they haven’t made anything at all, evolutionists have fooled people into believing in the story of whale evolution, when in fact, the story exists only in their imaginations. And just as the people were afraid to proclaim the obvious, that the emperor was naked, because they were afraid of being called stupid or incompetent, those who believe the fable of whale evolution are intimidated by the same fears. Promoters of young-earth creation are analogous to the child who cries out the truth.
The evolutionists’ story of whale evolution is far more than just a fraud, though. It is a blatant attack upon the glory of the Creator, the One who created the wondrous and beautiful variety of living things as a witness to His awesome power and creativity. In direct opposition to this purpose, evolutionists propose that one of God’s most awe-inspiring and magnificent creatures, whales, evolved over millions of years entirely as a result of random, natural events. God is completely rejected as the cause of something which, in fact, he designed and created. According to the Bible, the creation is unmistakable evidence of the Creator, and those who ignore it have no excuse to reject God. To observe the creation and not acknowledge the Creator is like looking in a mirror and believing that there is no one there.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NASB)
Although they are without excuse, fortunately those who do not yet acknowledge the Creator are not without hope, for the Creator is a loving God who rewards those who seek Him. It is never too late:
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NASB)
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Note: Some statements were taken from Henry M. Morris, That Their Words May Be Used Against Them (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1997).
These appendices provide scientific corroboration for the beliefs presented in the main portion of the paper above.
In conjunction with Appendix C, which is a discussion of natural selection, genetic drift, migration, and genetic recombination, this appendix has one primary purpose: to validate the claim that mutations are the only possible cause of the genetic changes required for the evolution of the whale. Much of the information will be very familiar to many readers, and those should feel free to just skim, or even ignore, these appendices. Those without a solid background in genetics, on the other hand, may find the information both helpful and interesting.
Briefly put, a mutation is a change in the arrangement of the nitrogenous base pairs in the DNA of an organism. Mutations occurring in the reproductive cells, or gametes, such as sperm or egg, can be passed from one generation to the next. Those in the other (somatic) cells cannot be passed on. In addition to point mutations (the change of a single paired link in the DNA of a gene), there are many other types of mutations, including tandem repeat mutations, deletions, insertions, duplications, translocations, insertions, conversions, and mitochondrial mutations (Sanford 2014, 39). The vast majority of mutations have harmful or neutral effects, while a very small minority can increase an organism’s ability to survive. The latter are referred to as beneficial, or advantageous, mutations. In the analogy to printed text, a mutation is equivalent to the rearrangement of, or change in, a single letter, an entire word, or a sentence, or more. Natural selection is likened to an editor who watches for accidental changes in the printing process and decides whether the change will help or hurt the text. If he decides it is the former, he selects it to remain in the final version.4 The claim that the changes in the text are accidental is critical in this analogy, because as far as evolutionists are concerned, that is exactly what the changes caused by mutations are: accidental. In the final analysis that fact plays a decisive role in determining whether or not mutations are capable of producing the changes that would be required in the evolution of the whale.
For many years, mutations in DNA were conceived of in a linear sense, but, as the following remarks indicate, that is no longer true:
The traditional understanding of DNA has recently been transformed beyond recognition. DNA does not, as we thought, carry a linear, one-dimensional, one-way, sequential code—like the lines of letters and words on this page. And the 97% in humans that does not carry protein-coding genes is not, as many people thought, fossilized ‘junk’ left over from our evolutionary ancestors. DNA information is overlapping-multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards; and the ‘junk’ is far more functional than the protein code, so there is no fossilized history of evolution. (Williams 2007)
Although it will not be addressed in this paper, this quotation points out that another belief that had been popular among evolutionists for many years, that as much as 97% of the DNA was “junk, ” a holdover from our evolutionary past, has also been thoroughly debunked. It is becoming increasingly accepted that there is actually very little, if any, “junk” in DNA. Jonathan Wells wrote an entire book, The Myth of Junk DNA, about the subject. In it he wrote, “The myth of junk DNA is effectively dead” (Wells 2011, 104).
According to the famous evolutionist, Ernst Mayr, “It must not be forgotten that mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation found in natural populations and the only new material available for natural selection to work on” (Mayr 1970, 102). In contrast to this claim, other evolutionists commonly claim that in addition to mutations, there are other causes of change in the process of evolution: natural selection, genetic drift, migration, and genetic recombination. Appendix B carefully explains that the genetic changes attributed to these other supposed sources of change are ultimately dependent upon mutations.
Mayr’s claim about the decisive role of mutations in the evolutionary process is echoed by many other scientists, both creationists and evolutionists. Some of these are listed below:
By far the most critical aspect of Darwin’s multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept. In Darwinian thinking, the only way a plant or animal becomes fitter than its relatives is by sustaining a serendipitous mutation. If the mutation makes the organism stronger, faster, or in some way hardier, then natural selection can take over from there and help make sure its offspring grow numerous. Yet until the random mutation appears, natural selection can only twiddle its thumbs. (Behe 2007, 2–3)
Most genes mutate only about 1 to 10 times per 100,000 cell divisions, so mutation itself does not significantly change allele frequencies. It is, however, the ultimate source of all variation and thus makes evolution possible. (Johnson & Raven 1998, 324 — emphasis not in original)
It is probably fair to estimate the frequency of a majority of mutations in higher organisms between one in ten thousand and one in a million per gene per generation . . . Mutation provides the raw materials of evolution. (Ayala 1970, 3).
Mutations serve as the ultimate source of all genetic variation. To the Neo-Darwinist, evolutionary change results from the interaction of genetic variation (originating by mutations) and natural selection. With our modern understanding of genetics, it becomes clear that any evolutionary system must depend on mutations as the ultimate source of all genetic variation, and, hence, all biological novelty. (Lester & Bohlin 1984, 66–67)
All genetic variation owes its origin ultimately to mutations . . . . (Futuyma 2013, 235)
In modern evolutionary theory, DNA mutations are the driving force behind evolutionary change. To be sure, natural selection filters out certain DNA mutations and non-randomly shapes and sculpts the DNA sequences that we observe today. But mutations are at the heart of evolutionary change. (Jeanson 2017, 205)
According to evolution, the ultimate cause of genetic change is mutation. (Jeanson 2017, 243)
There is only one evolutionary mechanism. That mechanism is mutation/selection (the Primary Axiom). There is no viable alternative mechanism for the spontaneous generation of information. It is false to say that mutation/selection is only one of various mechanisms of evolution. (Sanford 2014, 238)
There are only three types of mutations: neutral, harmful, and beneficial/advantageous. In order for a four-legged land mammal to evolve into a whale, the vast majority of relevant mutations—the ones that directly impacted the process—must have been beneficial. Just as an automobile will never move forward if the only gears used are neutral and reverse, it should be obvious that the process of whale evolution could not possibly have been driven by neutral and harmful mutations.
A beautiful sculpture, such as the magnificent Pieta´ by Michelangelo, cannot be created by a blind man randomly chipping away on a chunk of marble. It could only be created by a sculptor chipping away with a very specific purpose in mind. In other words, the strikes must have been beneficial, or directed, not random.
There is a major problem with the idea that the vast majority of mutations in the evolution of the whale must have been beneficial, however, which is that such mutations are exceedingly rare, as the following statements indicate:
Certainly the vast majority of mutations must be deleterious, so if the organs of older animals contain appreciable numbers of cells which are carrying mutations, it is a virtual certainty that the organs are functioning less efficiently than they otherwise would. (Curtis 1963, 688)
Our first difficulty is that . . . all mutations seem to be in the nature of injuries that, to some extent, impair the fertility and viability of the affected organisms. I doubt if among the many thousands of known mutant types one can be found which is superior to the wild type in its normal environment; only very few can be named which are superior to the wild type in a strange environment . . . For any acceptable theory of the mechanism of evolution, a great number of fully viable hereditary variations is necessary. Mutation does produce hereditary changes, but the mass of evidence shows that all, or almost all, known mutations are unmistakably pathological and the few remaining ones are highly suspect. (Martin 1953, 100–106)
Moreover, the mutant genes, in the vast majority of cases, and in all the species so far studied, lead to some kind of harmful effect. In extreme cases the harmful effect is death itself, of loss of the ability to produce offspring, of some other serious abnormality. What in a way is of even greater ultimate importance, since they affect so many more persons, are those cases that involve much smaller handicaps, which might tend to shorten life, reduce number of children, or be otherwise detrimental . . . Many will be puzzled about the statement that practically all known mutant genes are harmful. For mutations are a necessary part of the process of evolution. How can a good effect – evolution to higher forms of life – result from mutations practically all of which are harmful? (Weaver 1956, 1158–1159)
Mutations are mistakes, errors in the precise machinery of DNA replication . . . Since any specific mutation is rare, and most are deleterious, a mutation that somehow enhances survival is admittedly highly unlikely, though not impossible. (Lester & Bohlin 1984, 67)
The first major objection to genes being the sole and sufficient driving force for evolution is that practically every mutation is obviously harmful, and puts the organism at a disadvantage rather than an advantage. (Hitching 1982, 77)
[G]enes contain information just like an instruction manual, and . . . mutations are random typographical errors within those instructions. Therefore . . . new mutations must overwhelmingly be deleterious . . . . (Sanford 2014, 183)
I am still not convinced that there is a single, crystal-clear example of a known mutation which unambiguously created information. There are certainly many mutations which have been described as beneficial, but most of these beneficial mutations have not created information, but rather have destroyed it. (emphasis in original. Sanford 2014, 17)
Quoting the famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky5 from his book, Genetics and the Origin of Species (p. 73), Hitching continues,
A majority of mutations, both those arising in laboratories and those stored in natural populations, produces deteriorations of viability, hereditary disease, and monstrosities. Such changes, it would seem, can hardly serve as evolutionary building blocks. (Hitching 1982, 77)
The process of mutation is the only known source of the raw materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution. It is subject to experimental study, and considerable progress has been accomplished in this study in recent years. An apparent paradox has been disclosed. Although the living matter becomes adapted to its environment through formation of superior genetic patterns from mutational components, the process of mutation itself is not adaptive. On the contrary, the mutants which arise are, with rare exceptions, deleterious to their carriers, at least in the environment which the species normally encounters. Some of them are deleterious apparently in all environments. Therefore, the mutation process alone, not corrected and guided by natural selection, would result in degeneration and extinction. (Dobzhansky 1957, 381–392)
The mutation rate affects not only the evolution of the human species but also the life of the individual. Almost every mutation is harmful, and it is the individual who pays the price. Any human activity that tends to increase the mutation rate must therefore raise serious health and moral problems for man. (Crow 1959, 138)
There can be little doubt that man would be better off if he had a lower mutation-rate. I would argue, in our present ignorance, that the ideal rate for the foreseeable future would be zero. (Crow 1959, 160)
The following statement was made by Herman Joseph Muller, the American geneticist, educator, and Nobel laureate best known for his work on the physiological and genetic effects of radiation as well as his outspoken political beliefs. It was prepared for the Geneva Conference of the United Nations. It is included here because in a single quote it specifies both the fundamental role of mutations in the process of evolution as well as their overall harmful effect, occurrences that seem to be utterly contradictory.
It is entirely in line with the accidental nature of natural mutations that extensive tests have agreed in showing the vast majority of them to be detrimental to the organism in its job of surviving and reproducing, just as changes accidentally introduced into any artificial mechanism are predominantly harmful to its operation . . . It is nevertheless to be inferred that all the superbly interadapted genes of any present-day organism arose through this process of accidental natural mutation. (Muller 1955, 331)
Obviously, the conclusion expressed in the above sentence is based upon not an objective evaluation of mutations but Muller’s preconceived belief in the theory of evolution. The simple truth is that evolutionists have to believe in beneficial mutations because their theory is totally dependent upon them. Without beneficial mutations, evolution would not exist.
Many similar statements have been made by other scientists. Since they call into question the very existence of beneficial mutations, such statements vigorously undermine the notion that beneficial mutations could be the fuel of evolution.
Despite the fact that almost all mutations are either neutral or harmful, evolutionists nevertheless cling to their belief that some are actually beneficial. As already explained, they must do this, because their entire theory depends upon it. Aware of the need to provide empirical examples of beneficial mutations, evolutionists often point to, first, those that result in sickle-cell anemia, and, second, those that enable some bacteria to become resistant to anti-bacterial chemicals, such as penicillin. Descriptions of these two types are presented below. They make it evident that the mutations involved in these events are beneficial in only a very limited sense. More will be said about this after the descriptions have been presented.
This first quote reflects the belief commonly held by evolutionists today about this disease:
Sickle cell anemia is the result of a point mutation, a change in just one nucleotide in the gene for hemoglobin. This mutation causes the hemoglobin in red blood cells to distort to a sickle shape when deoxygenated. The sickle-shaped blood cells clog in the capillaries, cutting off circulation.
Having two copies of the mutated genes cause sickle cell anemia, but having just one copy does not, and can actually protect against malaria - an example of how mutations are sometimes beneficial. (Stanford University, “Understanding Genetics”)
In sharp contrast to the thought expressed above are these words from Dr Felix Konotey-Ahulu, M.D., FRCP, DTMH, a world authority on sickle-cell disease, with 25 years’ experience as a physician, clinical geneticist, and consultant physician in Ghana and subsequently in London. He is a visiting professor at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, and honorary consultant to its Center for Sickle Cell Disease. The following quotation is from his textbook, The Sickle Cell Disease Patient:
Sickle-cell anemia is caused by an inherited defect in the instructions which code for the production of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells. You will only develop the full-blown, serious disease if both of your parents have the defective gene. If you inherit the defect from only one parent, the healthy gene from the other one will largely enable you to escape the effects of this serious condition.
However, this means you are capable of transmitting the defective gene to your offspring, and it also happens that such carriers are less likely to develop malaria, which is often fatal. Being a carrier of sickle-cell disease without suffering it (heterozygosity is the technical term) is far more common in those areas of the world which are high-risk malaria areas, especially Africa.
This is good evidence that natural selection plays a part in maintaining a higher frequency of this carrier state. If you are resistant to malaria, you are more likely to survive to pass on your genes. Nevertheless, it is a defect, not an increase in complexity or an improvement in function which is being selected for, and having more carriers in the population means that there will be more people suffering from this terrible disease. Demonstrating natural selection does not demonstrate that ‘upward evolution’ is a fact, yet many schoolchildren are taught this as a ‘proof’ of evolution.6
Evolutionists argue that the mutation that creates the defect noted above is a beneficial mutation, because those that possess it sometimes have greater resistance to malaria than those who don’t. In a very limited sense, then, these mutations are indeed beneficial. They improve the survival rate of some of the people that have them. But according to evolutionary theory, beneficial mutations must do a lot more than improve an organism’s survival rate; they must cause physiological changes that cause creatures to evolve into completely different ones. Judged by these criteria, the mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia hardly qualifies as a beneficial mutation. Obviously, people who have been affected by this mutation are not evolving into different creatures! They are simply staying alive. (Konotey-Ahulu 1991, 106–108 — emphasis added)
The text highlighted above is a devastating refutation of the critical role assigned to beneficial mutations by evolutionists. Because of the critical role played by beneficial mutations in the evolution of the whale, in effect, it presents an insurmountable obstacle to the entire theory.
In regards to resistance to penicillin, Douglas Futuyma includes a report of an interesting experiment concerning this subject on page 209 of his popular book, Evolution. The experiment was performed by Joshua and Esther Lederberg in 1952. The conclusion of the experiment was that “Only those colonies [of E. coli bacteria] that had been the source of penicillin-resistant cells on the master plate [the first plate in the experiment] grew on the replica plate, showing that the mutations [that enabled those bacteria to resist the penicillin] had occurred before the bacteria were exposed to the penicillin.” In other words, the resistance to the penicillin was not the result of a mutation that coincidentally occurred just when the bacteria were exposed to the penicillin. The resistance was in the genes of some of the E. coli before they were ever exposed to the penicillin.”
In regards to its importance as a current example of evolution, Futuyma pulls no punches:
No more dramatic example of evolution by natural selection can be imagined than today’s crisis in antibiotic resistance . . . The discovery of antibiotic drugs and subsequent advances in their synthesis led to the conquest of most bacterial diseases, at least in developed countries . . . In 1969, the Surgeon General of the United States proclaimed that it was time to “close the book on infectious diseases.”
He was wrong. Today we confront not only new infectious diseases such as AIDS, but also a resurgence of old diseases such as tuberculosis . . . Almost every hospital in the world treats casualties in this battle against changing opponents, but in the process they are intentionally making those opponents stronger. In this and many other ways, humans are instigating an explosion of evolutionary change. (Futuyma 2013, 2–3)
This opinion of Futuyma is refuted in the following remarks taken from an article on the AIG web site by Dr. Alan Gillen, “Is Antibiotic Resistance Proof of Evolution?” (2015). This article includes the following remarks from creation microbiologist and Director of the CRS Van Andel Creation Research Center, Dr. Kevin Anderson:
Evolutionists frequently point to the development of antibiotic resistance by bacteria as a demonstration of evolutionary change. However, molecular analysis of the genetic events that lead to antibiotic resistance do not support this common assumption. Many bacteria become resistant by acquiring genes from plasmids or transposons via horizontal gene transfer. Horizontal transfer, though, does not account for the origin of resistance genes, only their spread among bacteria. Mutations, on the other hand, can potentially account for the origin of antibiotic resistance within the bacterial world, but involve mutational processes that are contrary to the predictions of evolution. Instead, such mutations consistently reduce or eliminate the function of transport proteins or porins, protein binding affinities, enzyme activities, the proton motive force, or regulatory control systems. While such mutations can be regarded as “beneficial,” in that they increase the survival rate of bacteria in the presence of the antibiotic, they involve mutational processes that do not provide a genetic mechanism for common “descent with modification.” (Anderson 2005)
Gillen proceeds to say that,
Anderson goes on to demonstrate how some “fitness” cost is often associated with such mutations, although reversion mutations may eventually recover most, if not all, of this cost for some bacteria. A biological cost does occur, however, in the loss of pre-existing cellular systems or functions. Such loss of cellular activity cannot legitimately be offered as a genetic means of demonstrating evolution, but is rather evidence of devolution. (Gillen 2015)
As the preceding discussion indicates, according to evolutionists the primary feature of beneficial/beneficial mutations is that they enhance the survivability of creatures. That is,
Beneficial mutations lead to a higher fitness and hence per definition to more offspring of their bearer. Unfortunately, these beneficial mutations are rare and thus difficult to study. (Imhof and Schlötterer, 2001)
Sickle-cell anemia and antibiotic resistance are widely used examples of beneficial mutations. There is a glaring problem with this definition: mutations that enhance the survivability of organisms do not provide the advantage that is absolutely required by the process of evolution, which is the creation7 of entirely new physiological features. For example. nothing has been added to the physiology of a creature that survives due to antibacterial resistance that may contribute to its evolution into a different creature. It remains a member of exactly the same species both before and after the event. As described above, exactly the same is true of the mutations that cause sickle-cell anemia. In both cases, the mutationally induced change promotes their recipient’s survival but does nothing in regards to their evolution into a different creature. Furthermore, as the Lederberg’s clearly stated concerning the experiment they performed, in most cases the mutations that cause resistance to penicillin and other antibacterial chemicals in certain microorganisms were not in reaction to these chemicals; they existed in the organisms’ populations prior to their introduction. They were part of the genetic diversity described by Jeanson (Jeanson 2017, 245).
The fact that sickle-cell anemia and antibiotic resistance are commonly cited by evolutionists as prime examples of beneficial mutations is clear evidence that their entire theory of whale evolution is on very thin ice, for they are beneficial in only a very limited sense. As stated previously, the chain of events that supposedly cause a four-legged land mammal to evolve into a whale must be driven by beneficial mutations. However, these mutations must do much more than simply allow creatures to survive. They must initiate the development of new physiological features that initiate their evolution into entirely different creatures.
It is noteworthy that clear, precise definitions of beneficial mutations are difficult to find, and the ones that do appear almost invariably are similar to the one from Imhof and Schlötterer that is quoted above. Very rarely, in other words, do such definitions suggest that beneficial mutations initiate the development of a new physiological feature in an organism. The reason for this is not a mystery: this is not something that mutations do. The scarcity of such definitions appears to be true of both creationist and evolutionist authors. For example, in a wonderful book written by Dr. John Sanford, Genetic Entropy, although beneficial mutations are referred to repeatedly, they are never specifically defined. Dr. Sanford is a devout creationist and widely recognized authority in genetics.
It has been claimed here that beneficial mutations are far too rare to be the primary catalyst of whale evolution. But couldn’t this claim be disproven by simply turning to the studies done on mutation rates? Couldn’t such studies provide a definitive answer to the frequency of beneficial mutations?
Calculating mutation rates is based upon determining the number of mutations existing in a given population at a specific period of time. It is accomplished by observing and then recording the number of mutations in a small segment of a population and then extrapolating this number for the entire population. Calculating this number can be compared to counting the number of books published in the United States in a given year. In both cases there is widespread agreement upon the corresponding numbers, because they are based upon direct observation of the items being observed, mutations and books.
It is very important to recognize the difference between calculating the rate of all mutations versus that of beneficial/beneficial mutations. Mutations are identified by comparing the DNA of similar organisms through HREM (high resolution electron microscopy) of their DNA. Differences in comparable sections of DNA generally can be attributed to mutation. Viewing them through a microscope, however, does not indicate whether they are neutral, harmful, or beneficial. That distinction can only be made after their effect upon the organism has been determined. Furthermore, and this is critical, that determination is entirely subjective.
Returning to the analogy introduced above: whereas counting the number of all mutations is like counting the number of books, attempting to calculate the number of beneficial mutations is like trying to determine the number of the books published in a given year that reviewers think might have the potential to make an historical impact in the world. So, then, whether counting books that might make an historical impact or beneficial mutations, the supposed number is, first, based upon subjective opinions and, second, a miniscule, and ultimately indeterminate, percentage of the whole.
An article by Kat McGowan on December 17, 2013, in Discover magazine estimates that there are roughly 100 billion mutations for each generation in the entire population. Although this number is somewhat lower than that implied by Keightley (see below) and Jeanson,8 it can still be used to make the following point. Whether the number of mutations in the entire population at any point in (current) time is 100 billion or 500 billion, it is these mutations that provide the data for the studies on mutation rates. Beneficial mutations constitute a miniscule portion of this total. How miniscule? This cannot be calculated with any degree of accuracy, because, as noted above, identifying a mutation as beneficial is entirely subjective. Therefore, any effort to determine the rate of beneficial mutations is doomed to failure at the outset.
It was stated previously that virtually all of the relevant mutations in the evolution of the whale must have been beneficial. Because the fraction of mutations that are beneficial cannot be known, the conclusion is inescapable: any estimate of the number of mutations required in the evolution of the whale cannot be based upon studies of mutation rates. If such an estimate is attempted, it cannot be based upon studies of mutation rates, and it can be no more than a guess.
The point of the italicized text above is very important and is confirmed in Evolution, by Futuyma. A section of that book dealing with mutation rates includes the following words:
The best current estimate [of the mutation rate for humans] . . . is 1.1 x 10-8, implying that a new human carries about 70 new mutations on average (Keightley 2012). With such a low mutation rate per locus, it might seem that mutations occur so rarely that they cannot be important. However, summed up over all genes, the input of variation by mutation is considerable. Taking into account the fraction of nucleotides in a mammalian genome that are thought likely to affect fitness if mutated (perhaps 5 percent), Keightley (2012) estimated that a new human zygote might carry 2.2 deleterious mutations on average. The fraction of mutations that might prove beneficial is unknown . . . . (Futuyma 2013, 201 — emphasis not in the original)
The most important points about mutations are summarized below:
Beneficial mutations lead to a higher fitness and hence per definition to more offspring of their bearer. Unfortunately, these beneficial mutations are rare and thus difficult to study. (Imhof and Schlötterer 2001)
However, they do not provide the one thing that evolution demands: something that will enable their descendants to evolve into another creature – entirely new morphological/physiological features, ones that never existed before. As Dr. Konotey-Ahulu said, “according to evolutionary theory, beneficial mutations must do a lot more than improve an organism’s survival rate; they must cause physiological changes that cause creatures to evolve into completely different ones.” (Konotey-Ahulu 1991, 106–108)
Having firmly established the extreme rarity of beneficial mutations, it would seem to be entirely unreasonable to suggest that the evolution of the whale was driven almost entirely by them. However, a careful reading of the remainder of the paragraph from Futuyma’s book quoted above clearly indicates that that is exactly the case:
The fraction of mutations that might prove beneficial is unknown, but suppose it were 1 percent of the deleterious mutation rate, or .02 per genome. Then, in a population of 1 million people, about 20,000 potentially useful mutations would arise in every generation. Even if the fraction of potentially beneficial mutations were much less, the amount of new “raw material” for adaptation would be substantial over the course of thousands or millions of years. (Futuyma 2013, 201)
What Futuyma is suggesting here is that the beneficial mutations so desperately needed by his theory will surely arise, if there is sufficient time and a sufficient number of creatures in the population. Of course, the suggestion that there actually is a sufficient amount of time and creatures is not based upon a shred of empirical evidence; it is no more than wishful thinking. If the logic suggested in the preceding paragraph is applied to the evolution of whales, it becomes especially tenuous, for it is almost impossible to imagine that the population of the original ancestor of whales was remotely close to one million members.
Nevertheless, evolutionists must cling to the belief that beneficial mutations are capable of causing the physiological changes that their theory requires, for if they are not capable, the theory cannot exist!
Before closing this appendix, one more topic must be briefly addressed: The creation of new physiological features versus the creation of new species. The former, of course, are absolute requirements of evolutionary theory, for the process (of evolution) could not proceed without them. The YEC creation model, on the other hand, doesn’t require such new features, for it works perfectly well without them. This is because in that model all of the features that are found in living creatures were included in the original creatures that God created during the creation week. The variation that ensued after the creation was not based upon the creation of new features; it was based upon variation and exposure of already existing ones.
In Replacing Darwin, Jeanson presents the YEC explanation for the source of the vast variation in living creatures. He refers to the process that initiated this variation as preexisting genetic diversity directed by natural selection, migration, genetic drift, and occasional mutations (Jeanson 2019, 245). This radical difference from the explanations offered by evolutionists for the cause of change is based upon the even more dramatic difference between the starting points of the two theories. As Jeanson writes, young earth creationists believe that “In the beginning, around 6,000 years ago, God created “kinds” of creatures—the original min. Representing creatures somewhere between the rank of sub-genus and order, these min contained millions of heterozygous sites in offspring”(Jeanson 2019, 281). Obviously, if the cause of this preexisting genetic diversity is its inclusion in God’s design of the creatures he created during the creation week, it is not available for evolutionists, for they don’t subscribe to this model.
The biological family Canidae, that includes domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and many other extant and extinct dog-like mammals, is a good example of the pre-existing genetic diversity suggested by Jeanson. The great variety of animals within this family did not require the development of any entirely new physiological features, for the essential features of this family were all included in the DNA of the family’s original ancestors and are common to all of its members. All that was required was genetic variation—caused by genetic recombination during reproduction—of these common features. This variation is possible in the creation model, because the genetic diversity that it requires was designed into living creatures by God at their creation. As stated above, this diversity is not available to evolutionists, because its source, God, is not included in their theory. Natural selection, genetic drift, migration, and genetic recombination can all play a role in Jeanson’s model for the development of new species, because the variation is not dependent upon the utterly random changes caused by mutations; it is mostly the result of genetic recombination during reproduction. As this variation occurs, these other processes, in combination with natural forces such as earthquakes, climate change, etc., can initiate the genetic isolation that is required for speciation.
So far it has been established that, according to the evolutionary paradigm, the primary catalyst in the evolution of the whale—the only thing capable of initiating the changes in the DNA that are necessary for the process—are mutations. And the vast majority of these mutations must have been beneficial. It was also pointed out that, although evolutionists generally define a beneficial mutation as one that enhances an organism’s survivability, in order for evolution to proceed, mutations must actually be capable of doing something far more difficult: the creation of entirely new physiological features. Without them, creatures would never evolve into new ones. In order to corroborate this possibility, empirical evidence is required, real examples of such features. So far, there isn’t any.
According to the famous evolutionist, Ernst Mayr, “It must not be forgotten that mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation found in natural populations and the only new material available for natural selection to work on” (Mayr 1970, 102). Although many scientists agree with Mayr’s statement (see quotations), somewhat paradoxically many of them also believe that, in addition to mutations, there are at least three other major causes of evolution: natural selection, genetic drift, and migration. Genetic recombination is sometimes added as a fifth cause. This apparent contradiction is at least partially resolved by categorizing these alternative causes as secondary, rather than preeminent, causes. But in comparison to mutation, just how important are these other causes in the process of evolution? Let’s look at them to find out, beginning with natural selection.
The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines natural selection as, “The process in nature by which, according to Darwin’s theory of evolution, only the organisms best adapted to their environment tend to survive and transmit their genetic characters in increasing numbers to succeeding generations, while those less adapted tend to be eliminated.” A more detailed definition is offered by the National Geographic Society:
Natural selection is the process through which populations of living organisms adapt and change. Individuals in a population are naturally variable, meaning that they are all different in some ways. This variation means that some individuals have traits better suited to the environment than others. Individuals with adaptive traits—traits that give them some advantage—are more likely to survive and reproduce. These individuals then pass the adaptive traits on to their offspring. Over time, these beneficial traits become more common in the population. Through this process of natural selection, favorable traits are transmitted through generations.
Natural selection can lead to speciation, where one species gives rise to a new and distinctly different species. It is one of the processes that drives evolution and helps to explain the diversity of life on Earth. (“Natural Selection,” from National Geographic Society Resource Library)
Douglas Futuyma says this about natural selection:
The philosopher Daniel Dennett called natural selection “Darwin’s dangerous idea” for a good reason: it is a very simple natural mechanism that explains the appearance of design in living things. Before Darwin, the adaptations and exquisite complexity of organisms were ascribed to creation by an omnipotent, beneficent designer, namely God, and indeed were among the major arguments for the existence of such a designer. Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) concept of natural selection made this “argument from design” completely superfluous. It accomplished for biology what Newton and his successors had accomplished in physics: it provided a purely natural explanation for order and the appearance of design. It made the features of organisms explicable by processes that can be studied by science instead of ascribing them to miracles. The contemporary “intelligent design” movement is simply a repetition of the predarwinian argument, and of course it cannot be taken seriously as a scientific explanation of the properties of living things. (quoted by Bigelow 2018)
Particular note should be taken of the sentence, “It made the features of organisms explicable by processes that can be studied by science instead of ascribing them to miracles,” for it implies that natural selection is at least partially responsible for “the features of organisms.” It will momentarily be shown that this is not true.
A common illustration of natural selection is the increased survival rate of animals, such as foxes, with longer fur in cold climates. That those animals that are best able to keep warm will be the ones that have the best chance of survival seems rather obvious. That this actually happens is credited to natural selection. It should be equally obvious that natural selection had absolutely nothing to do with creating the longer fur on some of the animals. This variation would have been the result of either genetic recombination or mutation. The reason that genetic recombination could be the explanation for the longer fur is that fur length is a variable that was included in the original genetic design of the creatures involved (see reference to Jeanson’s discussion of preexisting genetic diversity). Longer fur, however, certainly does not qualify as an entirely new morphological feature. It is the result of the same process that causes the variety of hair length and color, or body size, found in human beings. The bottom line is that natural selection acts upon the morphological and physiological variations that are inherent in all living organisms—but it doesn’t cause them. It is apparent, then, that mutations provide the raw material that natural selection acts upon. That is, without the genetic changes caused by mutations, natural selection would have nothing to act upon.
Natural selection is often described as a “process” or a “mechanism.” In the illustration of increased fur length described above, for example, many accounts seem to imply that natural selection is the controlling force, or power, that selected the longer-furred creature to survive. In reality, however, natural selection has no power to do anything. For example, in the illustration of the benefit that results from longer fur in a cold climate, imagine that natural selection was removed from the analysis. Needless to say, when this is done, nothing changes. Both with and without “natural selection,” the creatures with the longer fur have exactly the same survival advantage. In the final analysis, natural selection is not a “mechanism” or a “process” at all. It is a description of something that happens in nature. It is not actually the cause of anything.
Previously, natural selection was “likened to an editor who watches for accidental changes in the printing process and decides whether the change will help or hurt the text.” This gives natural selection too much credit. In the analogy to a printing process, it would be more accurate to compare natural selection to an observer of the process, someone who can notice the printing changes, or errors, but has no power to do anything about them
According to the article “Genetic Drift” from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “genetic drift models are a staple topic in population genetics textbooks and research, with genetic drift described as one of the main factors of evolution alongside selection, mutation, and migration. Some claim that genetic drift has played a major role in evolution (particularly molecular evolution), while others claim it to be minor.”
In order to decide what role, if any, genetic drift could have played in the evolution of whales, it is necessary, of course, to clearly understand exactly what it is. In his widely read textbook, Evolution, Douglas Futuyma defines genetic drift as “random fluctuations in the frequencies of alleles . . . owing to ‘sampling error.’ . . . Genetic drift and natural selection are the two most important causes of allele substitution – that is, of evolutionary change – in populations . . . Random fluctuations in allele frequencies can result in the replacement of old alleles by new ones, resulting in nonadaptive evolution. While natural selection results in adaptation, genetic drift does not—so it is not responsible for those anatomical, physiological, and behavioral features of organisms that equip them for reproduction and survival. Genetic drift nevertheless has many important consequences, especially at the molecular genetic level” (Futuyma 2013, 258).
Once again, a comment by Futuyma must be singled out here: “Genetic drift and natural selection are the two most important causes of . . . evolutionary change.” As this paper makes clear, this is not true, for without the influence of mutations, genetic drift, and natural selection certainly could not cause evolutionary change. All they would be capable of is altering the ratio of the alleles in a population. This could cause speciation, but not evolution.
An understanding of genetic drift requires an understanding of alleles. A logical place to initiate such an understanding is with DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, the long string of nitrogenous bases in the cells of living organisms that ultimately determine the make-up these cells. In humans, a single strand of DNA consists of over three billion pairs of four specific bases: cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine. A chromosome is a single strand of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones that support its structure. A gene is a section of this chromosone. Human DNA consists of 20,000–25,000 genes. In canines this number is about 20,000. The number of pairs of nitrogenous bases in each of these genes varies from over one hundred to over a million. Each gene contains instructions for the production of protein molecules, which, in conjunction with other cellular parts, ultimately determine a creature’s physiological features, such as eye color, hair color, and height. There are different versions of genes for each feature. For example, one version (a variant) of a gene for eye color contains instructions for blue eyes, another type contains instructions for brown eyes.
The arrangement of nitrogenous bases can differ between copies of the same gene. This results in different forms of individual genes. Different forms of a gene are called alleles. The position that a given gene occupies on a chromosome is called the gene locus (loci, plural). In individual mammals, there are two alleles at each gene locus, one from each parent.
The article previously referred to from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that “Millstein suggests that a proper distinction between [genetic] drift and [natural] selection relies on causation, specifically, that drift processes are indiscriminate sampling processes in which any heritable physical differences between entities (organisms, gametes, etc.) are causally irrelevant to differences in reproductive success, whereas natural selection processes are discriminate sampling processes in which any heritable physical differences between entities (organisms, gametes, etc.) are causally relevant to differences in reproductive success.”
What this means is that any changes that accompany the process of genetic drift are concealed in the chromosomes; i.e. the changes do not result directly in inheritable physical differences that can have an immediate effect upon the reproductive success of the relevant creatures’ offspring. This reflects the statement from Futuyma quoted above, that “genetic drift . . . is not responsible for those anatomical, physiological, and behavioral features of organisms that equip them for reproduction and survival.” Apparently, the idea here is that, although the changes under consideration here do not immediately affect the survivability and reproductive success of an individual, they introduce a change that will one day, through their descendants at least, play a role in the evolution of an entirely new creature. An example would be a change in the body of a reptile that initiated a feature that would eventually evolve into a wing. It is assumed, of course, that the evolution of wings on a reptile involved a long series of connected changes that took many years and generations: thousands, if not many more. Evolutionists generally believe, of course, that birds evolved from reptiles and that this entire process probably took at least ten million years. (Reflect upon that idea for a moment, and consider how much sense it makes!) From this perspective, it is clear that the initial change in this process would have been barely noticeable and would undoubtedly have no effect upon the survivability or reproductive success of the creature in which it occurred. Nevertheless, it seems that these changes must somehow be at least indirectly connected to these inheritable physical differences. If they weren’t—if they remained concealed in a gene “forever” and never played a role in the development of new features—why would any evolutionist consider the process that isolated them, genetic drift, to be “one of the main factors in evolution”? In order to answer this question it is necessary to understand exactly how genetic drift affects a population.
The genomes of mammals are diploid, meaning that they have a paired set of chromosomes in the cell nucleus, one from each parent. At each gene locus, there are two alleles. If the two alleles are the same—for example, if at the locus that determines eye color both alleles code for brown—the site is said to be homozygous. If one allele codes for brown and the other for blue, the site is heterozygous. Genes contain instructions for the production of proteins, which are instrumental in the creation of a body’s physical features.
Suppose that the two alleles on a specific locus of a particular gene in a group of mammals occur in a ratio of 50/50; i.e., fifty percent of one allele and fifty percent of the other. As these animals reproduce, a number of things can take place to change this ratio of alleles in a future generation. For example, animals with a greater percentage of one allele may produce more offspring than those with the other allele. Alternatively, either of these groups may produce no offspring. Or perhaps a natural disaster of some sort will destroy a large portion of the population, leaving a reduced group that has a significantly different mixture of alleles than that which existed in the original group. Or perhaps a small group with, again, a different mixture of alleles than the original group, wanders off to eventually form their own colony. In each of these situations, there is a possibility that the allele mixture of the group in question may be different than that of the original population. These new groups, then, or, more precisely, the alleles in the members of this group, are said to have undergone genetic drift. That is, the mixture of their alleles has drifted away from that of the original population.
So, how can such a scenario contribute to evolution? As long as the alleles remain in their original condition, it can’t. Because the DNA in the alleles are ultimately responsible for the creation of a body’s features, if there is no change in them, there can be no change in the features of the creatures in which they reside. Thus, in order for the creatures that were isolated from their original group as a result of genetic drift to contribute to the evolutionary process, at least one member of the isolated group must have an allele that is entirely unique. According to the evolutionary paradigm, there is only one way such an allele could be created: mutation. Once again, then, just like with natural selection, the ultimate cause of the unique allele is mutation, not genetic drift. Genetic drift does not cause the change in the alleles; it only rearranges the creatures in which the alleles exist. Its role in evolution, therefore, is only a secondary one. Without the changes initiated by mutation, genetic drift is impotent. Ernst Mayr’s insight is once again corroborated.
The following description of migration is from the website “Evolution,” which is associated with the book by the same title by Mark Ridley:
Migration is the movement of populations, groups or individuals. In genetic terms, migration enables gene flow: the movement of genes from one population into another. If the two populations originally had different gene frequencies and if selection is not operating, migration (or, to be exact, gene flow) alone will rapidly cause the gene frequencies of the different populations to converge. (“Evolution” website)
Migration plays no role in the creation of the genes involved in the described movements. It is simply a label that is assigned to this movement. The variation in the genes that were necessary for the migration were not caused by the migration; they preceded it. As with natural selection and genetic drift, any variation in the genes must have been due to mutation. Here is an example that illustrates migration (Quizlet - Biology Chapter 17, web site):
Example: There are blue, red, and green fish. One day, group A of blue and red fish leave and move somewhere else, and group B of Red and Green fish leave and move somewhere else. Group A will form a new species of fish that are ONLY BLUE AND RED and Group B will form a new species of fish that is only RED AND GREEN.
What triggered the new species was the different skin colors in the original population. It must be noted that events such as this can result in the origination of new species, but they cannot contribute to the evolution of an amphibian from a fish. For this to happen, entirely new features are required, such as legs, which did not exist in the DNA of fish. According to the evolutionary paradigm, the only thing that may have the potential to do this is mutation.
Genetic recombination always occurs during the reproduction process. It is the reason for the unique phenotype of every human being: for example, the explanation for the fact that children’s appearance and physiology is always somewhat different than their parents. In human reproduction, the child receives 23 chromosomes from each parent. During meiosis the DNA of these chromosomes combines in various ways to create a new being, unique from either parent. The potential variation that results from this process is not unlimited, however. It can only alter features that already exist, such as height, eye and hair color, muscle size, etc. It cannot result in entirely new physiological features on creatures that never had them previously, such as legs on a fish, or wings on a reptile. That is, just as there is potential variation from this process (according to Jeanson, resulting from preexisting genetic diversity), there are also limits to this variation that can never be crossed.
A clear, concise statement regarding the limitation of genetic recombination was included in a high school textbook entitled Exploring Biology: The Science of Living things (1966, 561):
Sexual reproduction – which involves the segregation and independent assortment of chromosomes and the crossing over of chromosomal segments – does not produce anything new in the way of actual genetic material (DNA). But it does produce new combinations of the already existing material . . . .
In summary, neither natural selection, nor genetic drift, nor migration, nor genetic recombination is capable of causing the genetic changes that are required by evolution. Only one thing is capable of doing this: mutations. Therefore, in this paper, as the source of genetic change, the focus has been entirely on mutation.
It is false to say that mutations/selection is only one of various mechanisms of evolution. There are several types of mutations and there are several types of selection, but there is still only one basic evolutionary mechanism (mutation/selection). (Sanford 2014, 238 — emphasis in original)
At the beginning of this paper were two quotations that referred to the transitional forms in the fossil record that supposedly “provides remarkably complete evidence of” this evolution. In an article entitled, “A whale Fantasy from National Geographic” (Yahya 2001) the author says this about this matter:
The parade of reconstructions on pages 66–69 in National Geographic’s November 2001 issue were meant to sum up the magazine’s claim regarding the origin of whales. A whole string of creatures were lined up one after the other and described as transitional forms in the evolution of the whale. According to the magazine, the order of these creatures, according to the geological periods they lived in, was as follows:
- Pakicetus (50 million years ago)
- Ambulocetus (49 million years ago)
- Rodhocetus (46.5 million years ago)
- Procetus (45 million years ago)
- Kutchicetus (43–46 million years ago)
- Durodon (37 million years ago)
- Basilosaurus (37 million years ago)
- Aeticetus (24–26 million years ago)
National Geographic’s list continued, but included known categories of dolphins and whales.
The number of these supposed transitional creatures in this series varies from one article or textbook to another, from three or four to ten or more, but almost all of them start with a four-legged creature that looks somewhat like a wolf, or a cow, or perhaps a wolf-cow. Yahya’s article is a withering critique of this whole idea of transitional forms in whale evolution. He says that “despite all National Geographic’s best efforts, the fact that there were no transitional forms between land and sea mammals and that they both emerged with their own particular features has not changed. There is no evolutionary link. Robert Carroll accepts this, albeit unwillingly and in evolutionist language: “It is not possible to identify a sequence of mesonychids leading directly to whales” (Carroll 1998, 329). The conclusion of Yahya’s article states the following:
Contrary to the claims of the paleontologist Hans Thewissen, who assumes a major role in evolutionist propaganda on the subject of the origin of marine mammals, and is one of National Geographic’s most important sources of information, we are dealing not with an evolutionary process backed up not by empirical evidence, but by evidence coerced to fit a presupposed evolutionary family tree, despite the many contradictions between the two . . .
Loud evolutionist propaganda about marine mammals . . . resembles the ‘horse series’ that was once put forward in the same way, but which evolutionists then admitted was invalid. A number of extinct mammals that lived at different times were lined up behind one another, and the evolutionists of the time tried to impose this as ‘firm evidence.’ Yet the truth emerged over time, and it was realized that these animals could not be each others’ ancestors, that they had emerged in different periods, and that they were actually independent extinct species. Niles Eldredge, the well-known paleontologist at American National History Museum, where the schemes of horse evolution were exhibited and where they are still kept in a basement, has this to say about them:
There have been an awful lot of stories, some more imaginative than others, about what the nature of that history [of life] really is. The most famous example, still on exhibit downstairs, is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps fifty years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that is lamentable, particularly when the people who propose those kinds of stories may themselves be aware of the speculative nature of some of that stuff.
The evolution of the whales’ fairy story, so fiercely defended by National Geographic, is another of these fantasies of natural history. Like its predecessors, it too will soon find itself in the waste bin of science (Yahya, op.cit.).