We've all watched courtroom dramas or followed real-life trials as attorneys on both sides use witnesses and evidence to argue their case. As a forensic engineer, I am often called upon as an expert witness in cases involving traffic collisions and product failures leading to injury. I recognize the extreme level of rigor required to put forth a contested theory. If significant details of the expert witness's theory are missing, the testimony is determined to be unreliable by the court. Furthermore, if an expert is willing to entertain only one explanatory theory and ignores all inconvenient contrary data, then a similar finding of unreliability is made, and the theory is rejected summarily.
Why is this important? Debates over origins often resemble courtroom proceedings (many, in fact, have taken place in courts), and proponents of Darwinian evolution sometimes resort to "evolution simply happened" tactics that would not ordinarily pass judicial rigor.
As an example, an evolutionist can say that a species' highly complex genetic code can simply morph into a new, even better, code through random processes, but can he explain the actual mechanisms or sequence of events for such a dramatic change? Stating as fact that some ancient insectivore "evolved" into a whale is simple. And, simple it is, conceptually. However, evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins do not explain how this is done in a detailed, rigorous step-wise mathematical fashion. To say that random mutations guided by natural selection brought about the panoply of functioning complexity that we see today is a superficial explanation. "It just happened" would be poorly received in court.
Common evolutionary assumptions make it appear (at least to nonevolutionists) that the detailed explanations needed to clarify the particular path from one species to another are not required of Darwinists by their peers when they offer their theories. Let's look again at the example of the whale. Reasonable questions to pose to an evolutionary expert witness include:
- Which species did the blue whale evolve from? How do you know? Can you work back three generations from any present-day whale species?
- Have these three species progressed in near infinitely fine gradations, as Darwin postulated, or do they demonstrate "saltational" (single-step) jumps?
- If the individual species designs did "jump," what was the mechanism, exactly of the jump?
- Why did the saltational jump occur when it occurred? Did all species modify at that time due to the same "pressure" or not?
- Let's assume that the Darwinian model, which shows a directionless process, is correct. Thus, progress to the sea is as likely as progress toward the land, isn't it? How many land-dwelling species emerged, either from whales, or the transitional species that you listed? Did any of them branch back toward land dwelling? Did any branch toward air-faring creatures and become bats? How do you know?
- Can you relate the changes in the genome that you hypothesize to a change in climate? Shouldn't the change in environment correlate to the change in phenotype (that is, the shape and anatomy)?
- Have you sequenced the genomes of your postulated progression of species? What does your analysis show?
- If you simply looked at the phenotype of the previous species, are you concerned at all that DNA (genotype) and phenotype are not nearly as well correlated as was believed? What is the probability of your phenotype analysis being confirmed by an independent DNA analysis?
- Suppose that another researcher were to indicate that your analysis was incorrect. What test would you offer to confirm your analysis?
- Would you agree that if your analysis isn't subject to testing that it is not scientific by definition?
It's easy to assert that evolution happened, but answering "how" questions applies the "acid test" to assertions that are simplistic and open to refutation. In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins indicates that wings were developed to benefit creatures that hopped between tree branches. Those with incipient wings fell to the ground with less severity, and broke their necks with less regularity, than did those fellow creatures without developing wings. Thus, the growth of wings was reinforced by natural selection.
This explanation seems most suitable for children. It in no way indicates how the genome changed to develop the proteins and enzymes needed to self-assemble to support winged flight. However, Dawkins isn't required by fellow evolutionists to spell out exactly the biochemical processes required to generate DNA information. Skeptical readers are left with two polar possibilities: either Dawkins believes the deeper explanation is so trivial that it doesn't require clarification or careful consideration, or the actual details are so complex that they defy explanation. I believe that the "door number two" answer is closer to the truth.
Cross examination helps determine truth in a courtroom. Similarly, evolutionary theory (or any other theory explaining life's history, including creation) should be subject to similar scrutiny so that the jury of public opinion can arrive at an informed verdict.