The fourth section of Gary N. Fugle’s book Laying Down Arms to Heal the Creation-Evolution Divide looks at the value of biological evolution. It is hard for the non-scientist, and even many scientists who are not conversant with biology, to appreciate the depth and importance of the evolutionary theory in biology.
[O]nce the idea of evolutionary change is considered, we find that it has enormous power to explain much of what we see in the biological realm. This explanatory power pervades all levels of biology, extending from the origin of cell organelles to complex interactions within ecosystems. With evolution in mind, phenomena in one area of biology after another become understandable like they never were before. Biologists are able to repeatedly exclaim, “Aha! I get it! Now that makes sense.” It is because of this sweeping power to make sense of the natural world that evolution is regarded as one of the few unifying principles in the biology discipline. (p. 129)
Now some biologists will claim that this level of explanation removes God from the picture. Fugle’s response, along with that of other Christian scientists, is a sense of awe in understanding God’s methods of creation.
If you wonder why scientists find the evidence persuasive, read this section of Fugle’s book. He runs through a discussion of body plans and embryology; moves to fossils, with sequential ordering and transitional forms; considers biogeography and the dispersion of forms and species; and concludes with evidence embedded in the genetic coding of DNA. This gives a flavor of the range of evidence for evolution available. It is important to realize however, that the evidence for evolution is so pervasive that no short book can do justice to the sum total. Fugle includes a range of examples, but it would be a mistake to think that this is more than just the tip of the iceberg.
An outline of a few of the examples:
Whales provide a particularly significant example illustrating a number of the lines of evidence for evolution. Mainstream science leads to the conclusion that whales evolved from land mammals over the last 65 million years or so. Almost every line of evidence for evolution is illustrated by the whale.
The whale fin has the same external hydrodynamic structure as fish but the bone structure found in vertebrates, especially mammals with a humerus, ulna, radius, carpals. Whales also have vestigial pelvic bones.
The embryos of many whales develop hind limb buds that are reabsorbed, as well as external ear lobes, also reabsorbed. “Baleen whale embryos start with nostrils toward the tip of the snout, but, as development progresses, changes in the shape and size of skull bones cause the nostrils to migrate to their final place at the top of the head to form the blowhole.” (p. 144)
The fossil record shows a progression of whales with disappearing rear legs and nostrils at various locations along the snout. Transitional forms abound. The ankle bones of ancient whale precursors have a structure similar to that of even-toed hoofed animals.
The genome project confirms these connections. Whale and dolphin DNA is most similar to the hippopotamus, then cow, sheep, deer and giraffes. All consistent with evolution from an even-toed hoofed precursor. All of these connections could simply be “the way God chose to do it,”creating a succession of unrelated species, but this does not seem as satisfactory as the explanatory power of evolution … as the mechanism God chose to use in creation.