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CONFESSIONS OF DARWIN


"The Origin of Species": "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ system existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." (only once on web) Twenty-first-century science has demonstrated just that in the irreducible complexity of the molecular "machines" within cells, the structure of cilia, flagella, and the intracellular transport system. -David Hoagland.


"The eye gave him nightmares." -Darwin's Black Box, a detailed study of certain biochemical machines in humans and other organisms, is aimed at realizing one of Darwin's worst nightmares. Darwin worried that the origin of complex organs such as the eye would be difficult to explain in terms of the gradual, stepwise evolutionary process outlined by his theory. The best he could do was to speculate that the complex eye might have developed from simple light-sensitive cells that could give a competitive advantage to an organism that possessed them. But the molecular biology of vision, as Behe notes, was a "black box" to Darwin. Darwin and his contemporaries took the simplicity of cells for granted, treating them as black boxes that needed no further explanation.

Now that we know how complex even the simplest cells are, Behe argues, we can no longer ignore the question of how they originated, nor can we deny the lack of progress in answering that question within a Darwinian paradigm. Behe examined every issue of the Journal of Molecular Evolution (a top journal in the field) since it began in 1971. He could not find even one article that "has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion." This lack of an explanation, Behe says, is "a very strong indication that Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of complex biochemical systems." http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=83

In On the Origin of Species, Darwin had worried that the origin of complex organs, such as the eye, would prove very difficult to explain using the gradual, stepwise process required by his theory.  The best he could do was to speculate that complex eyes might have developed somehow from simple, light-sensitive cells that could give a competitive advantage to an organism that possessed them. 


Various Creationist books have a quote from The Origin of Species(1859):

To suppose that the eye [...] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. 

This implies that Darwin didn't have faith in his own theory. Or, perhaps it implies that Darwin saw a hole in his theory, and didn't know how to solve it. But let's look at the next two sentences:

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.  The Origin of Species, Chapter Six, "Organs of extreme Perfection and Complication" 

And yet, this is precisely where Darwin's suppositions have failed to materialize in the 155 years that scientists have tried to prove the theory.

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/quote_darwin.html

http://www.tbi.univie.ac.at/Origin/origin_6.html#xtocid1864548  eye problem in darwin's words

http://www.tbi.univie.ac.at/Origin/origin_toc.html origin of species online.

He who will go thus far, ought not to hesitate to go one step further, if he finds on finishing this volume that large bodies of facts, otherwise inexplicable, can be explained by the theory of modification through natural selection; he ought to admit that a structure even as perfect as an eagle's eye might thus be formed, although in this case he does not know the transitional states. ... but I have felt the difficulty far too keenly to be surprised at others hesitating to extend the principle of natural selection to so startling a length. Darwin chapter vI. 

Is Darwin here suggesting that scientists disregard the evidence to the contrary and create fanciful arguments for his theory if they be not seen as cowards.


If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to the theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we take an organ common to all the members of a class, for in this latter case the organ must have been originally formed at a remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct. We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Chapter 6

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/eye_stages.html  stages of an eye.

http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mm92496.htm  behe on eye. superb.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html  counter to behe, one long argument.


Darwin himself was concerned about the absence of the transitional forms in the fossil record which his theory led him to expect:

The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [should] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.' (Darwin C. The Origin of Species, 1859 )

The situation over a hundred years later does not seem very different. Stephen Jay Gould (a palaeontologist from Harvard) said: 'The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology'. His fellow palaeontologist Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History adds: 'We palaeontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change] knowing all the while it does not'. Eldredge goes on to say: 'When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn palaeontologist looking to learn something about evolution'.


Darwin on Trial p 16

Darwin did not insist that all evolution was by natural selection, or do his succesors. He wrote at the end of the introduction to the first (1859) edition of *The Origin of Species* that "I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification" and later complained of the "steady misrepresentation" that had ignored this qualification. On the other hand, Darwin was vague about the importance of the alternatives one of which was "variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneeously." Contemporary neo-Darwinists also practice a tactically advanageous flexibility concerning the frequencey and importance of non-selecive evolution. Stephen Jay Gould wrote that this imprecision "imposes a great frustration upon anyone who would characterize the modern sysnthesis in order to criticize it," and I am sure that every critic shares the frustration.


If we did not know better, we would expect that the "Origin of the Species" to contain a dramatic chapter on the fossil record in which Darwin demonstrates how the evidence of the bones confirms his theory. However, Darwin knew quite well that the record was contrary to his theory. Gould tells us:

Only one chapter of the "Origin of Species" bears an apologetic title - ironically, for the subject that should have provided the crown of direct evidence for evolution in the large: the archive of life's actual history as displayed in the fossil record. Yet Darwin entitled Chapter 9 "On the Imperfection of the Geological Record."

Despite this strong belief in geological gradualism, Darwin knew perfectly well - as all paleontologists always have - that stasis and abrupt appearance represent a norm for the *observed* history of most species. I needn't rehearse Darwin's solution to this dilemma, for his familiar argument represents more than a twice-told tale. Following the lead of his mentor, Charles Lyle, Darwin attributed this striking discordance between theoretical expectation and actual observation to the extreme imperfection of the fossil record.(p. 757)

To quote the two most famous statement on this subject from the "Origin of Species," Darwin summarizes his entire argument by closing Chapter 9 with Lyell's metaphor of the book (1859, pp. 310-311)

For my part, following out Lyell's metaphor, I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume along, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly - changing language, in which the history is supposed to be written, being more or less different in the interrupted succession of chapters, may represent the apparently abruptly changed forms of life, entombed in our consecutive, but widely separated, formations.

In epitomizing both geological chapters, Darwin begins with a long list of reasons for such an imperfect record, and then concludes with his characteristic honesty (1859, p 342): "All these causes taken conjointly, just have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory." ...

In the next quote Darwin asserts that because his hypothesis is true, while the evidence is contrary, it demonstrates how faulty the evidence is. Of course this is backwards. And Gould in presenting this quote twists this into a form of "sophistication" on Darwin's part.

The paradoxes set by Darwin's solution for the current practice of   paleontology and macroevolutionary theory receive their clearest expression in another remarkable statement from the "Origin of Species" (1859, p. 302), a testimony to Darwin's sophisticated understanding that nature's "facts" do not stand before us in pristine objectivity, but must be embedded within theories to make any sense, or even to be "seen" at all. Darwin acknowledges that he only understood the extreme imperfection of the geological record when paleontological evidence of stasis and abrupt appearance threatened to confute the gradualism that he "knew" to be true:"But I do not pretend that I should ever have suspected how poor a record of the mutation of life, the best preserved geological section presented, had not the difficulty of our not discovering innumerable transitional links between the species which appeared at the commencement and close of each formation, pressed so hardly on my theory." (p 758)

(Translation: "I know the data does not support my theory. That shows the data is worse than I would have thought.")


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