The changing face of evolution
Geoff Metcalf interviews author James Perloff on key science issues

Editor's note: One of today's fiercest debates is that between evolution and intelligent design. Today, heating up the debate for WND's readers, WorldNetDaily staff writer and talk-show host Geoff Metcalf interviews James Perloff, acclaimed author of "Tornado in a Junkyard" as well as the in-depth cover story in WorldNet magazine's July issue.

That issue -- titled "EVOLUTION: The complex and profound basis of all life, or a fairy tale for scientists who reject God?" -- takes a critical look at this raging debate.

Perloff's writing is widely praised as being unusually clear for the layman, while being scientifically rigorous and accurate.

By Geoff Metcalf
Question: When I read your WorldNet Magazine piece on evolution, I found it to be a better summary of your book "Tornado in a Junkyard" than our last interview.

Answer: That's what I wanted to do. Most people don't have time to read a whole book on creation and evolution, so I wanted to write something that would summarize it in a minimum of words. And that's what WorldNet magazine gave me an opportunity to do.

Q: Some folks are going to jump up and argue, "You're talking science vs. religion here," and we're really not -- at least I'm not. What you have done is a superb job of pointing to the junk science -- phony stuff -- that is being taught in schools. Let's start off with probably one of the most egregious examples: Ernst Haeckel -- tell us what this guy did?

A: If you open a child's biology textbook, chances are good you will still find a picture of human embryos, side by side with animal embryos. And what the biology textbook will say is, the resemblance between the human embryos and the animal embryos prove we share a common ancestry with these animals. Haeckel himself said, "When we see that at a certain stage the embryos -- man and ape, dog and rabbit, pig and sheep -- cannot be distinguished from each other, the fact can only be elucidated by a assuming common parentage."

Q: There is a humongous problem here though.

A: Right. Haeckel was the man who designed these and it should be noted, these pictures are total forgeries.

Q: The fakery has been known for some time right?

A: Oh yeah. These were exposed way back in 1915 in a book called "Haeckel's Frauds and Forgeries" -- a book that quoted many leading authorities of the day. Anatomist F. Keibel of Freiburg University said, "It clearly appears that Haeckel has in many cases freely invented embryos." Now despite this early exposure, biologists and Darwinists in western society continued to use these pictures in textbooks to prove Darwin's theory of evolution.

Q: Who is Dr. Michael Richardson?

A: He is an embryologist at St. George's Medical School in London. And he found there was no record that anyone actually checked Haeckel's claims by systematically comparing human and other fetuses during development.

Q: So what did Richardson do?

A: He assembled a scientific team that did just that. They photographed the growing embryos of 39 different species.

Q: What did they learn?

A: Here's what Dr. Richardson said in summary in a 1997 interview in the Times of London. "This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It's shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. It makes me angry. What Haeckel did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don't. These are fakes."

Q: The obvious question is, since this has now been scientifically proven -- it was previously debunked a long time ago -- but now that we have this empirical evidence, why do these pictures still show up in textbooks?

A: In my book, "Tornado in the Junkyard," I discuss many branches of science that prove Darwin was wrong. So the question is not just this piece of evidence, but many other pieces of evidence -- in light of them, why do we still have Darwin's theory of evolution being taught as fact?

I think there are two reasons for that. One is that many scientists have never been taught anything but Darwinism. If you have never been exposed to the evidence against it you are going to continue to support it. The other reason was well summarized by Dr. Michael Walker, an anthropologist at Sydney University. He said, "One is forced to conclude that many scientists pay lip service to Darwinian theory only because it supposedly excludes a Creator from yet another area of material phenomena -- not because it has been paradigmatic in establishing the canons of research in the life sciences and the earth sciences."

In other words, scientists are people like you and I, and they have prejudices just like you and I. A lot of people don't like the idea of God or moral laws or moral absolutes as are laid out in the Bible. Darwinism persists, I believe, in spite of the contradictory evidence against it, because essentially it is an attempt to deny the existence of God.

Q: Let's accept that as a potential motivation if only in the interest of time. It still is, however, bewildering that today we have contemporary textbooks that kids are being taught that is including material that was proven in 1915 to be a fraud.

A: There have been quite a few other areas of science that have proved Darwin was wrong.

Q: We can get into some of those in a moment, but first I need to introduce this brief parenthetical note. After I interviewed you last time, we got overwhelming response. Most of it positive, but some was very negative. Some readers questioned what the heck WorldNetDaily was doing entering the creation vs. evolution debate.

There are two notes we need to include: 1) A strong case can be made that the current moral climate, which tolerated Bill Clinton, is rooted in Darwinism's denial of moral absolutes; and 2) Overwhelming evidence has arisen in recent years casting grave doubt on Darwin's theory.

A: And you are quite right when you mention the moral decline we have had as a result of Darwinism. I myself became an atheist as a result of Darwin's teaching.

Q: You weren't alone. So did Stalin and Lenin.

A: Since you just mentioned Stalin, let me just quote a Russian book, "Landmarks in the Life of Stalin." Most people know Stalin was one of the worst dictators in 20th century. He murdered millions of people.

At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist. G. Glurdjidze, a boyhood friend of Stalin's relates, "I became to speak of God. Joseph heard me out, and after a moment's silence, said: "You know, they are fooling us, there is no God..." I was astonished at these words. I had never heard anything like it before. "How can you say such things Soso?" I exclaimed. "I'll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense," Joseph said. "What book is that?" I enquired. "Darwin. You must read it," Joseph impressed on me.

Q: Last time we did this, you told me something that frankly surprised me. I'm skeptical of this junk science stuff but I didn't realize something that was an epiphany when you told me originally. Regarding mutations, I remember you told me that mutations do not add information?

A: This is a very important question because it is at the foundation of evolutionary theory. Fish developed into men over a long period of time, right?

Q: That's what they tell us in school.

A: The big question is how did the fish get the genes to become a man? Because you can't be anything physically your genes won't allow you to be. Charles Darwin didn't know about genetics. It wasn't developed as a science in his time. He thought essentially that animals had an unlimited ability to adapt to their environment. In fact, he went on record as saying that any four-footed hoofed creature could be converted into a giraffe. He thought if you took a group of donkeys and put them in the right environment they could be changed into giraffes over a long period of time. This is simply not the case.

The evolutionist was faced with this dilemma of how could the fish acquire the genes to become human beings.

Q: So what did they come up with?

A: The solution evolutionists came up with in the 20th century was mutations. Mutations are abrupt changes in genes. So the theory is fish genes mutated to human genes, with the help of natural selection, over many millions of years.

Q: Who is Dr. Lee Spetner?

A: He was a professor for many years at John Hopkins University and he spent years studying mutations on a molecular level. He's written a very important book, "Not by Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution".

Q: What does he have to say?

A: He writes, "In all the reading I've done in the life-sciences literature, I've never found a mutation that added information. All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not increase it."

Q: Hold on -- what about that claim that mutations are beneficial?

A: Well if you take the obvious ones and look at what mutations cause in human beings -- they cause death, sterility, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, Downís Syndrome and about 4,000 other genetic diseases. In other words, the genetic code is designed for the perfect running of an organism and all that mutations do is delete information from the code and give you birth defects.

Q: One Ph.D. type who read your WorldNet magazine piece says, "The argument against evolution is interesting and probably makes sense to non-scientists." He says evolution is a fact of life. "Among real scientists the major debate is simply about the details of how evolution occurs -- not whether it occurs." Basically what he claims is that the facts exist. However, no one has found them yet.

A: Well, if itís true that nobodyís found them, that's not a very helpful case for evolution. You mentioned positive or beneficial mutations. It is possible to find a mutation that could be considered beneficial. An example that evolutionists commonly give is bacteria. They say mutations sometimes make bacteria resistant to antibiotics -- and if they can make bacteria stronger so as to resist antibiotics, they must be able to do the same for other creatures.

Q: What about kids that are born with webbed feet or hands? Is that considered a mutation?

A: It almost certainly would be if you've got a kid with webbed feet. But just to continue with this example of bacteria, Dr. Lee Spetner points out this is all based on a misunderstanding of antibiotic resistance. These mutations do not make the bacteria stronger. To kill bacteria, an antibiotic like streptomycin hooks up with part of the bacterial cell called the ribosome. Sometimes a mutation can make a ribosome deformed and misshape it. Since the antibiotic cannot hook up with the deformed ribosome, it cannot kill the bacterium. But this does not mean that the bacterium is stronger. The deformed ribosome represents a loss of genetic information. It is not an evolutionary gain.

Q: Hold on. Let me slow you down. I want to get back to something you kind of blew off when I asked you about it.

A: OK.

Q: When a kid is born with webbed hands or feet -- and this happens -- normally, they eventually have them surgically corrected. You said that would be a mutation, but potentially that could be a beneficial mutation couldn't it?

A: Well, here's what I was trying to say: You can always find a benefit to an information loss. For example if you lost your drivers license and couldn't drive your car anymore, we might ask is there any benefit to that loss? We could say yes, there is no chance you could be killed in a driving accident. Or, what if a child is born deaf as a result of mutation? Is there any benefit? Sure. This kid will never hear any curse words. But don't we all want cars, and children who can hear?

Q: Hold on Jim. Let's get back to my original posit. I know kids who have been born with webbed hands and webbed feet who have had them surgically corrected. That could be a positive mutation if the kid were to be a swimmer and wanted to compete for the Olympics or something that would give them a benefit. So, wouldn't that be an example of a mutation that does have positive elements to it?

A: Again, you can deduce a benefit from a loss of information. We are not arguing here that a mutation can never be beneficial. But do you really think it is a benefit to have webbed feet? Because if that is true, why are they surgically corrected?

Q: Come on! For cosmetic and or psychological reasons no doubt.

A: Well has there ever been any evidence that children born with webbed feed make better Olympians?

Q: Hey, I doubt any such study has been done because the mutation has been discouraged and surgically removed.

A: Does it really constitute an increase in information? Does it really make the person more able than he was before?

Q: I don't know. I have the scientific aptitude of a retarded rock. I am not capable of answering that and I don't think you are either.

A: The point I was trying to make before is, you can deduce a benefit from the loss of information, as in the deaf child. Or if you ripped the windshield wipers off your car, your windshield would never get scratched by those wipers, but you'd still rather have them there. This is what evolutionists will typically do in examples of beneficial mutations. They'll say, for example, sickle cell anemia, which is a very painful, life-threatening disease, might be beneficial because people with sickle cell anemia are relatively immune to malaria. But thereís no way you can look at those deformed blood cells and call them an advance.

Q: I don't want to get wrapped around this axle because we have a lot of territory to cover and don't have a lot of time. I just don't buy this stretch of logic. Michael Behe, the biochemist at Lehigh -- what was that book he wrote?

A: "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution." In this book, he points out that in the human body, there are certain biochemical systems that are so complex they cannot have evolved step-by-step. These systems require every component to be working to be functional. If any one component were to be missing, it would be non-functional. He gives a number of examples.

Q: I like the blood-clotting example. It's kind of like the chicken-or-the-egg thing ...

A: If you take blood clotting -- when we bleed, when we get a cut -- a blood clot forms to stop the bleeding. That is a multi-step process involving numerous enzymes and proteins. If any one of those proteins were missing, you could not form a blood clot. To paraphrase Dr. Behe, very simply, each protein depends on an enzyme to activate it.

Q: So what came first?

A: What came first -- the protein or the activating enzyme? It can't be the protein because it can't function without the enzyme to switch them on. But why would nature evolve an activating enzyme before there was anything to activate? Furthermore, if blood clotting had evolved step-by-step over millions of years, creatures would have bled to death before it was perfected. It cannot be the result of evolution.

Q: Darwin didn't really understand -- and I think at some point he may have even admitted he didn't understand it. Darwin and his contemporaries were under the impression that cells were a lot more simple than they are -- isn't that right?

A: Correct. If you go into a child's textbook today, even first-grade children are taught that life began as a single cell about three billion years ago in the ocean -- and they are not given any alternative to this. It's true that Darwin, in his time, thought that cells were pretty simple. So he thought that if you had the right amount of time, some chemicals could come together, and join together by chance, and form a cell.

Q: Some guys have tried in various experiments to recreate the primordial ooze haven't they?

A: There have been a number of those going way back.

Q: I'm thinking of the one in the '50s -- Stanley Miller?

A: Miller was a graduate student at the University of Chicago back in the early '50s and he demonstrated with a special system applying electric sparks to a mixture of gases that you could eventually get some amino acids ...

Q: ... basically he took hydrogen, methane and ammonia ...

A: Right and you could get some amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. And based upon that, evolutionists in their basic textbooks today will say this offers proof that life could have evolved by itself.

Q: And you claim it couldn't have?

A: What they don't tell you, Geoff, is that amino acids being produced randomly are just a small part of what you would need to get a cell.

Q: In the interest of time, we have to remember this is at best a summary of your magazine piece, which is a summary of your book. If folks want more detail, we encourage them to read WorldNet magazine or, ideally, "Tornado in the Junkyard."

A: They provide much more detail.

Q: But in Miller's experiment, he kind of goes, "Ah-ha! See, this is the way it happened." However a guy with a few more credentials than Miller, Sir Francis Crick -- he was a Nobel laureate right?

A: He won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the structure of DNA. And though it is true Miller produced a few amino acids, Francis Crick pointed out that the odds of getting the structure of one protein by chance -- and proteins depend on hundreds of amino acids which have to be precisely arranged -- he said the odds of getting one protein by chance would be one in 10 to the power of 260 -- that's a 1 with 260 zeros after it. Which means, it would be impossible to get one protein by chance, let alone the thousands of proteins that a simple bacterial cell would need.

Q: What the heck do you call that number?

A: I don't know, but mathematicians usually consider anything with odds worse than one in 10 to the power of 50 to be, for all practical purposes, impossible.

Q: Where does sexual reproduction come from?

A: Good question. Let's say you really got a cell in the ancient ocean with all the ...

Q: I mean big "attaboys" to whoever or whatever came up with it, but where did it come from?

A: That's just it. To get a cell in the ancient ocean you would need not just the proteins and all the amino acids, you would need a genetic code and the genetic code of even a bacterium is far more complex than the code for "Windows 98" -- which nobody thinks could come about by chance. But before we get to sexual reproduction let's ask this question: Let's say a cell really was created in the ancient ocean with the genetic code, translation devices to translate the genetic code, and all the thousands of proteins and amino acids they depend upon, and a cell membrane, and so on. If you got that in the ancient ocean, I would think this little primordial cell floating on the waves would be very short lived. But think about it -- for evolution to be true, this little cell within its single lifetime must have evolved the complete process of cellular reproduction. Because if it didn't, there never would have been another cell. But you asked about sexual reproduction ...

Q: Yes, I did.

A: A male reproductive system is quite complex. Why would nature evolve a male reproductive system step-by-step? Because, until it was fully functional, it would serve no purpose -- and it would still serve no purpose unless, after it became functional, there happened to be available a convenient female reproductive system which must have also evolved step-by-step, by pure chance.

To say this would happen by chance simply defies the odds. When you take it, especially against all of the other components of a cell that would be needed, it simply isn't possible. In Darwin's time, it might have been justifiable, but with what we know about the design and complexity of cells today, it simply cannot be explained by chance.

Q: OK, what about all these fossils in the gaggle of museums? Don't they prove something?

A: Well, again, if you open a child's textbook today, you are typically going to see something called a "tree of life." All life forms branch off from it and at the very bottom of this tree you will see a single-celled organism. According to evolutionists, this single-celled organism eventually evolved into the first invertebrates, which are the creatures with no backbone like jellyfish. But if you go into the geological layers -- the lowest geological layer that contains invertebrate fossils -- itís called Cambrian rock. In Cambrian rock, you can find billions of fossils of invertebrates -- swimming crustaceans, snails, worms, clams, jellyfish, and so on. There are billions and billions of them.

Q: OK, so I guess the question is: How many fossils are there that show how these creatures evolve and that they came from a common ancestor?

A: And the answer is there is not one fossil that demonstrates that. Now evolutionists try to explain this by saying this was a period of rapid evolution and therefore we don't find any fossils showing the evolution. They call it the "Cambrian Explosion". But a much better explanation would be the Bible, which says, simply, that animals were created whole by God and that's what we see in the fossil record. Animals appearing whole and complete without any evidence of an evolutionary history.

Q: Didn't invertebrates allegedly evolve into the first fish?

A: Well sure. According to evolutionary theory, invertebrates became the first fish. But you've got billions of fossil specimens from both groups -- but what we don't have, are fossils which are intermediate between the two.

Q: What was it Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History said?

A: He said, " ... the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. As a paleontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record ... I will lay it on the line -- there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument." Now this certainly isnít to say there are no transitional forms claimed by evolutionists today. But we shouldnít be finding just a few questionable forms, we should be finding billions of fossils showing animals passing through their transitional steps of development. .

Q: What about this entire constant ubiquitous search for the "missing link"? Every 10 years or so, some new fossil shows up and they say, "AH-HA!"

A: Yes, you've got a big new fossil every few years. Back in 1912, Piltdown Man was proclaimed to be an ape man a half-million years old. It fooled the leading scientists in Britain, including Sir Arthur Keith the noted anatomist, Arthur Smith Woodward the geologist at the British Museum, Grafton Eliot Smith the noted brain specialist -- and when that find occurred, the New York Times ran this headline, "Darwin Theory Proved True."

Q: So what did the Piltdown Man consist of?

A: It consisted of nothing more than a very recent orangutan jaw, which had been stained to look old, with its teeth filed down to make them more human looking -- and they put it together with a genuine human skull bone and they stained the skull bone so it also would look old. It fooled many of the greatest experts in Britain and, for years, it was evolution's greatest showcase. It's a great example of how people can be mislead by preconceptions. And that kind of stuff is still going on today.

Q: What is taxonomy?

A: Taxonomy is the study and classification of the different organisms that exist in the world. That field was pioneered by a Swedish botanist named Carolus Linnaeus. He was a bitter opponent of evolution. He saw that the living world is divided into distinct divisions with no overlaps. Now, if evolution is true, and we all came from a common ancestor, then we should see intermediates between the living divisions of the world around us.

Q: Well that's what evolutionists keep telling kids in school.

A: But we don't see those intermediates. Austin Clark, the eminent zoologist at the Smithsonian said:

The complete absence of any intermediate forms between the major groups of animals, which is one of the most striking and most significant phenomena brought out by the study of zoology, has hitherto been overlooked, or at least ignored ... No matter how far back we go in the fossil record of previous animal life upon the earth, we find no trace of any animal forms which are intermediate between the various major groups or phyla. This can mean only one thing: If we are willing to accept the facts, we must believe that there never were such intermediates or, in other words, that these major groups have from the very first borne the same relation to each other that they bear today.

Q: I'm hearing from scientists that, "Well, they just haven't found them yet."

A: They haven't found the fossil intermediates yet, but that's not a good excuse. The evidence is simply not there.