Finnish Biochemist/Bioengineer Dr Matti Leisola says that “The story of phlogiston (see Appendix A) shows how an established paradigm may persist in the face of contrary evidence because its supporters patch it up ad nauseum instead of following the evidence. The Darwinian theory of evolution is the phlogiston of our day, festooned with a myriad and growing number of patches.”
“Evolution is slow and gradual except when it is fast. It is dynamic and creates huge changes over time, except when it keeps everything the same for millions of years. It explains both extreme complexity and elegant simplicity. It tells us how birds learned to fly and yet also lost that ability. Evolution made cheetahs fast and turtles slow. Some creatures it made big and others small; some gloriously beautiful and others boringly grey. It forced fish to walk and walking animals to return to the sea. It diverges except when it converges; it produces exquisitely fine-tuned designs except when it produces junk. Evolution is random and without direction except when it moves toward a target. Life under evolution is a cruel battlefield except when it displays altruism. Evolution explains virtues and vice, love and hate, religion and atheism. And it does this with a growing number of ancillary hypotheses. Modern evolutionary theory is the Rube Goldberg (see Appendix B) of theoretical constructs. And what is the result of this speculative ingenuity? Like the defunct theory of phlogiston, it explains everything while explaining nothing well.”
Lesson for us
Let’s beware of theories like phlogiston and Darwinian evolution that are used to explain everything, despite contrary evidence. It’s better to follow the evidence and be aware of the presuppositions such theories are based on.
Appendix A: Phlogiston
For almost a century it was thought flammable materials burned because they contained a colourless, odourless, tasteless substance called phlogiston. Phlogiston is a nonexistent chemical that, prior to the discovery of oxygen, was thought to be released during combustion. In this theory of combustion, all flammable objects were supposed to contain a substance called phlogiston, which was released when the object burned. When loopholes were identified in this theory they were patched up with new variations and new terms – such as assuming that phlogiston had negative weight! And objections were consistently countered with new information.
The phlogiston theory received strong and wide support throughout a large part of the 18th century until it was refuted by the work of Lavoisier, who revealed the true nature of combustion and the role of oxygen. He reasoned that oxygen had gone into the burning substance (rather than phlogiston coming out). At this time experiments switched from purely observational efforts to quantitative analysis that tried to measure changes and reactions without giving in to notions of fancy expanded from what the eyes alone observed.
Phlogiston teaches us that just because a theory is widely accepted among scientists, is believed to explain all the evidence, and reigns supreme for a long time, does not mean that it is true. Phlogiston seemed to explain so much. But it was wrong.
Appendix B: Rube Goldberg
Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (1883 – 1970) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. Goldberg is best known for his popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets performing simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.
The English equivalent is William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944) who was a cartoonist who also drew elaborate machines to achieve simple objectives. The name “Heath Robinson” was used in the UK for complex inventions that achieved absurdly simple results.
Leisola M and Witt J (2018) Heretic: One scientist’s journey from Darwin to design, Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 198-199.
The big-bang model is the current scientific explanation of the universe (Appendix A). Did you know that this mathematical theory includes two miracles that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.
A model is a mathematical explanation of something. Models that describe a current process can be tested experimentally against the real thing. Their predictions can be compared with observations. This is operational science which is reliable. But models about the distant past can’t be tested in that way because we can’t directly observe the past (and human records are fragmentary). This is historical (or forensic) science which is more speculative and unreliable than operational science. It involves the construction of tentative historical narratives to explain past events. And models about the distant future can’t be tested in that way because the future hasn’t occurred yet. This is futuristic science which is also more speculative and unreliable. Historical and futuristic science often rely on unreliable assumptions and extrapolations. But just because operational science is reliable, doesn’t mean that the others are also reliable. In fact, because they can’t be tested by experimentation, historical and futuristic science will always be less accurate than operational science. So operational science is more robust than historical and futuristic science.
Modern science is naturalistic and rejects the possibility of miracles because miracles defy explanations within the realm of nature. According to science, miracles don’t occur (they are supernatural) because it is assumed that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything. But we will see below that modern science isn’t consistent because it includes miracles in the area of historical science.
Something from nothing
The big-bang model assumes that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time since then. This is the beginning of space, time, and matter, which means that the universe had a cause. If something had a beginning, then it had a cause. But the cause of the universe could not have been spatial, temporal, or material because something cannot cause itself to come into existence. It’s absurd if something existed before it brought itself into being! This rules out naturalistic causes for the existence of the universe. Therefore, the universe had a supernatural cause.
According to operational science, we can’t get something from nothing (not anything). A vacuum remains a vacuum for eternity. But according to the historical science of the big-bang model, something (like a “quantum fluctuation”) came from nothing at the beginning of time. And that sounds like a miracle to me, because quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing. Theories that the universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there was something to fluctuate. So this aspect of the big-bang model is inconsistent with naturalistic operational science.
The big-bang theory had a horizon problem (the universe is isotropic, it appears to be the same in all directions), a flatness problem (the density of energy/matter in the universe is fine-tuned) and a magnetic monopole problem (none have been observed). To fix these problems, a cosmic inflation theory was developed where there was a brief (less than one-billionth of a second) rapid expansion of space in the early universe (to say about 50% of its size today).
This hypothetical cosmic inflation defies all known laws of physics – it’s a miracle invoked to help the big-bang model. And what caused this rapid expansion to start and stop? No one knows.
The big-bang theory also includes hypothetic “dark (unseen) matter” and “dark (unseen) energy”. Like hypothetical inflation, scientists have added these to the theory to make it work, but they have never been observed! To explain the accelerating expansion of the universe, they proposed “dark energy”, that was a seeming anti-gravity force pulling the cosmos apart. Dark matter and dark energy are said to compromise about about 96% of the mass-energy content of the universe! Because of the need of such large fudge factors, the big-bang model is a poor theory for the structure and origin of the universe. There are at least six major assumptions that are accepted by faith in the Big-bang model (Appendix B).
These aspects of the big-bang model of creation defy all known laws of physics and involve speculative ideas. And the model has other unverifiable assumptions like that the universe has no center or edge. So, it takes a lot of faith to believe the big-bang model!
The inflationary big-bang model includes at least two miracles that can’t be explained by operational science. The first is how something came from nothing in the beginning. And the second is how there was a minute burst of supernatural cosmic inflation soon after the beginning. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the big-bang can’t start without these two miracles.
I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.
But the Bible is consistent when it provides the cause of the universe as the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:1). He isn’t spatial, temporal, or material. But at the beginning of time at the creation of the universe, He created space, time and energy/matter as we experience it today.
Appendix A: Summary of the Big-bang theory (from John Harnett)
A “quantum fluctuation” produces the matter and energy of the future universe, which then goes through a brief period of “inflation”. This inflation produces “flatness” in the energy distribution and prevents the universe from collapsing in on itself. After stars form, “dark matter” is required to explain the shape of galaxies and “dark energy” is required to explain the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the afterglow of the post-inflation fireball, but the light is extremely red-shifted due to the stretching of space.
This theory assumes that the distribution of matter throughout the universe is homogeneous (uniform) and isotropic (the same in all directions).
Appendix B: Six assumptions accepted by faith in the Big-bang model
These are assumptions that can’t be verified by scientific experiments. None of the proposed entities can be measured directly (using operational science) because of the limitations of time and space.
- A “quantum fluctuation” produced the matter and energy of the future universe.
- Galaxy redshifts are explained by “expansion of space”.
- Cosmic microwave background radiation is explained as the “afterglow of the big-bang”.
- Rotation curves of spiral galaxies are explained by “dark matter”.
- As distant supernovae are dimmer than expected, the universe is assumed to be accelerating, which is explained by “dark energy”.
- Flatness and isotropy are explained by “inflation”.
Harnett J. (2014), “Exposing the Big Bangs fatal flaws”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.215-231.
Written, May 2019
Also see: An evolutionary miracle