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Macroevolution vs Microevolution

24th July 2008 - By Aaron Gadberry

I recently read an article called How Blind Salamanders Make Nonsense of Creationists’ Claims. While raising an interesting question, the author took quite a leap to the conclusion. In short, evolution went in reverse and salamanders lost their eyes. Therefore God doesn’t exist.

Macroevolution and microevolution are very different beasts. The development of the eye would be macroevolution, while the loss of the eye sight would be microevolution.

A salamander is in a cave in the dark and it’s eyes are completely useless. It’s very possible that random chance would allow a deformed blind salamander to be the producer of the population, and all would be blind henceforth. The same probabilities do not exist for the evolution of the eye.

The eye is made of up many different parts, all working in harmony to produce sight. By and large, if any one of these intricate parts were missing or damaged or even slightly altered then the eye would be completely non-functional. The very notion that the eye evolved at once is so statistically improbable it may as well be labeled impossible. In an alternative theory the author quotes that the development of the eye started with some light sensitive cells. They just happened to be equally spaced and positioned on the creature, and these light sensitive cells just happened to be connected to the brain in a way that the light sensitivity could be registered, and that creature happened to be the one who lived and fathered all other creatures, and those children creatures happened to somehow gain eyesight out of light sensitive cells.

Here’s another argument based on infinity. Given as space is infinite and at least one habitable planet exists, it is assured that there is another habitable planet out there. As it is assured that there is at least one other habitable planet and space is infinite, then it is assured there are actually an infinite number of habitable planets. Given that there are an infinite number of habitable planets, then it is assured that there is at least one habitable planet very close to the earth in terms of atmosphere, temperature, etc. It follows that there are an infinite number of planets very close to the earth, an infinite number of planets exactly like the earth, an infinite number of those planets supporting life, and infinite number of those life forms exactly like us, an infinite number of those life forms that have followed the same evolutionary paths, made the same decisions, and as such are exact replicas of us today. Therefore, there are an infinite number of earth “clones” floating around in space. And earths that are more advanced or less advanced than us by a few billion years, nor the other species that are slightly or vastly different than us. It’s kind of amazing we’ve never met any of them.

The probabilities against this sort of thing are so vast that only an argument of infinity can satisfy them. I guess the question is whether you believe space is infinite. If you do then get excited, because an infinite number of you “clones” are reading this same article and thinking this same thought right now!

If you found this interesting, or you are curious about the probabilities, you should go read The Mathematics of Monkeys and Shakespeare.

6 Responses to “Macroevolution vs Microevolution”

  1. Dimensio Says:

    I attempted to locate the section of the article that you referenced wherein the author concludes that “God” does not exist, but I was unable to locate it. Can you please cite the relevant excerpt?

    Additionally, declaring that “the very notion that the eye could evolve is ridiculous” is not a logical argument. You are appealing to incredulity, which is a logical fallacy. That you refuse to study biology does not negate biological findings. Additionally, declaring that “the probabilities against” such an event is not actually evidence that such an event did not occur, especially when you provide no actualy statistical probability, nor even justification of the alleged improbability.

  2. Aaron Says:

    Point taken on the quote about God does not exist. I have removed the quote marks from it, however I believe it still does summerize the article correctly, as the subtitle of the article itself is “How blind salamanders make nonsense of creationists’ claims.” That says because salamanders are blind God doesn’t exist.

    On your second point. I see that I did not provide enough detail on my argument about the eye. I have added “The eye is made of up many different parts, all working in harmony to produce sight. By and large, if any one of these intricate parts were missing or damaged or even slightly altered then the eye would be completely non-functional. The very notion that the eye evolved at once is so statistically improbable that to consider it as inevitable is just naive. In an alternative theory, which is more probable but still naive, the author quotes …”

    On your third point, I do provide a reference article to probabilities. I have clarified my intent in including a link to this site. The Mathematics of Monkeys and Shakespeare.

  3. Dimensio Says:

    If you are unable to demonstrate that the author is arguing that the existence of a specific variant of salamanders demonstrates the nonexistence of any specific deity, then you should not make the claim.

    The website that you referenced makes no statistical calculation regarding the evolution of the eye. Moreover, the probability calculations provided within the article are not justified; the author does not relate the calculations that he makes to the emergence of any biological system. Finally, your “explanation” of your appeal to incredulity does not alter the fact that it is an appeal to incredulity. That you do not comprehend how the biological structure of a mammalian eye emerged over subsequent generations does not mean that such an event is impossible.

  4. Aaron Says:

    The article is titled “How Blind Salamanders Make Nonsense of Creationists’ Claims.” This is pretty plain text declaring that this specific variant of salamander disproves the existence of God. I see no other creationist’s claims made in the article that are refuted.

    The other article I referenced is not one meant to show the probability of the emergence of a biological system. It would be pretty hard to find a truthful study on that, whether you believe in creationism or evolution. It is instead meant to further display the argument of probability vs. infinity. Truly, when infinity is considered, probability can not be. It simply shows how infinite the universe would have to be in order to satisfy the immense unlikelihood of evolution. Anything less than infinite would probably be insufficient.

    And I said the notion that an eye could evolve is “ridiculous” and “statistically improbable”, not impossible.

  5. Aaron Gibson Says:


    Rabid atheist Christopher Hitchens, writing in online magazine Slate, takes creationists to task for our alleged “blindness” to the “de”-evolution of sight.

    It seems Hitchens has done some work recently in the field of cave salamanders—and by work, we mean watching television! Hitchens explains what he thinks may be an evolutionary insight:
    I was watching the astonishing TV series Planet Earth . . . and had come to the segment that deals with life underground. . . . Various creatures were found doing their thing far away from the light, and as they were caught by the camera, I noticed—in particular of the salamanders—that they had typical faces. In other words, they had mouths and muzzles and eyes arranged in the same way as most animals. Except that the eyes were denoted only by little concavities or indentations. Even as I was grasping the implications of this, the fine voice of Sir David Attenborough was telling me how many millions of years it had taken for these denizens of the underworld to lose the eyes they had once possessed.
    Hitchens points out that creationists often point to the eye as a primary example of design—a feature that defies evolution except in the minds of those willing to suspend disbelief. But Hitchens begins to quote atheist Michael Shermer on how the eye could have originated through sequential evolutionary steps. The fuller story is usually oversimplified thusly:
    a simple light-sensitive spot
    a depression forms housing the light-sensitive spot
    the depression closes, forming a nearly enclosed pouch with a pinhole aperture
    the pouch is covered over by transparent tissue and filled with transparent fluid, and eventually all the parts of the modern eye evolve (lens, cornea, iris, retina, etc.)
    (See the links below for materials describing the incredible eye!)
    Hitchens then sets up fellow polemicist Ann Coulter as a stand-in for anyone identifying with the Intelligent Design movement or any variant of creationism. Hitchens quotes Coulter, who writes in Godless: The Church of Liberalism, “The interesting question is not: How did a primitive eye become a complex eye? The interesting question is: How did the ‘light-sensitive cells’ come to exist in the first place?”
    At this point, however, Hitchens’ logic becomes tumultuous:
    The salamanders of Planet Earth appear to this layman to furnish a possibly devastating answer to [Coulter’s] question. Humans are almost programmed to think in terms of progress and of gradual yet upward curves . . . [b]ut what of the creatures who turned around and headed back in the opposite direction, from complex to primitive in point of eyesight, and ended up losing even the eyes they did have?
    Whoever benefits from this inquiry, it cannot possibly be Coulter or her patrons at the creationist Discovery Institute. The most they can do is to intone that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Whereas the likelihood that the post-ocular blindness of underground salamanders is another aspect of evolution by natural selection seems, when you think about it at all, so overwhelmingly probable as to constitute a near certainty.
    So excited was Hitchens about this as-yet unclear burst of intuition that he e-mailed Richard Dawkins, another icon of atheism, to ask his thoughts. Dawkins wrote back:
    Vestigial eyes, for example, are clear evidence that these cave salamanders must have had ancestors who were different from them—had eyes, in this case. That is evolution. Why on earth would God create a salamander with vestiges of eyes? If he wanted to create blind salamanders, why not just create blind salamanders? Why give them dummy eyes that don’t work and that look as though they were inherited from sighted ancestors?
    Hitchens concludes with such thoughts as, “I am not myself able to add anything about the formation of light cells, eyespots, and lenses, but I do think that there is a dialectical usefulness to considering the conventional arguments in reverse, as it were.”
    So . . . that’s it? The argument is so disappointing (as we’ll explain below) that, if it weren’t so prominently authored by an iconic atheist/evolutionist, we certainly wouldn’t bother covering it in News to Note. But, lest our silence be misinterpreted as being at a loss for answers, here are our thoughts.
    Hitchens’ argument shows he is not familiar with what the vast majority of creationists (if not the entirety) believes (including young-earth and old-earth creationists as well as advocates of generic “intelligent design”). Hitchens’ observation is intended to ridicule the crowd that believes in fixity of species (that species never change). But who is a member of this crowd? Not anyone we know. We submit that when it is implied that creationists believe in such absolute fixity of species, that this is merely a straw man that evolutionists prop up to knock down. The Bible certainly doesn’t teach us that organisms never change.
    What creationists do believe, based on observational science and the Bible’s teaching, is that animals only reproduce after their kind—a taxonomic division generally much more inclusive than species or even genus. The genotypic and phenotypic characteristics of an individual (or the frequencies of genotypes and phenotypes present in a population) may change in certain ways, but not in information-adding ways that could turn a molecule into a man in millions of years. Thus, it is well within the creationist framework for a population of salamanders living in a cave to lose their eyes over time, as eyeless salamanders are more “fit” to survive than those who use up energy to grow and maintain useless eyes. (Furthermore, the views of old-earth creationists and advocates of intelligent design are even less strict about what changes an organism may undergo—yet Hitchens lumps them in, too, as victims of his argument.)
    In other words, Hitchens mistakenly assumes that believing life was designed precludes believing also that life-forms can change at all. Think of it this way: let’s say we discover a computer program that has the ability to change, within limits, to accommodate different operating systems and hardware capabilities. The computer program always has the same purpose; there are only ever minor, and usually negative, variations in the program, such as automatic disabling of some features if the computer hardware is deficient. Of course, the program is thousands of lines of complicated programming code.
    Should a computer user, upon discovering the program’s ability to adapt, claim the program must have “adapted its way into existence”!? Of course not—yet this is what evolutionists effectively believe. How much more absurd, then, would it be to ridicule those who believe the program had a programmer by pointing out its adaptive capabilities—which were intentionally designed by the programmer!
    The closing paragraph of Hitchens’ article indicates that creation is not all he misunderstands about the biblical worldview. He writes:
    [T]o the old theistic question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” we can now counterpose . . . the foreseeable heat death of the universe . . . and the not-so-far-off collision of our own galaxy with Andromeda . . . . So, the question can and must be rephrased: “Why will our brief ‘something’ so soon be replaced with nothing?” It’s only once we shake our own innate belief in linear progression and consider the many recessions we have undergone and will undergo that we can grasp the gross stupidity of those who repose their faith in divine providence and godly design.
    Frustrating as Hitchens’ juvenile rhetoric may be, it’s at least a reminder to keep him and others in need of salvation in your prayers.

  6. Aaron Gibson Says:

    Sorry, that formatting didn’t come out like I thought it would.

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