A short critique of “The Short Proof of Evolution”

Ian Johnston wrote an article called The Short Proof of Evolution. It has the merit of arguing for a general paradigm of evolution rather than a particular theory of evolution. It is accessible to a wide audience. And it is short. However, it falls far short of a proof. Here’s a short article why.

Johnston’s first point is “all living creatures must have a living parent.” Presumably, he means the parent must have been alive at some time since one’s parents may be deceased. This is an empirical conclusion that is presented as a universal proposition. Now as an empirical conclusion subject to empirical constraints, there is no problem with it. But Johnston wants to make a metaphysical point: there is no other possible origin of an organism other than from another organism. He provides no defense of this metaphysics.

Compare a similar statement: “all living human beings must have a pair of living parents.” If this is elevated from an empirical observation to a universal proposition (as Johnston does with his first point), then it would invalidate the evolution of humans from asexual organisms, contrary to evolutionary theory. One might as well conclude that humans have always existed.

His second point is “some living creatures are very different from some others.” This is certainly true. However, the real question is whether it is a difference of degree or of kind.

His final point is “simple animals and plants existed on earth long before more complex ones.” He tries to make this point by stating that fossil complexity and depth are directly related, with no exceptions. This begs the question of his uniformitarian assumptions. He admits that the existence of “a genuine fossil remnant” that went against this principle of interpretation would invalidate it.

In fact there is evidence to challenge this interpretation: the Cambrian explosion. This refers to the great quantity and diversity of life found in the Cambrian layer of the geologic column. Creationists have long pointed out the problem for evolution theory, namely that all the major groups (phyla) of life which appear in the Cambrian layer with no evolutionary ancestors. The main response from evolutionists has been to suggest possibilities that could explain why their theory lacks evidence.

For our purposes it is sufficient to note that Johnston’s third point has not been established, except in the sense that it is a point firmly believed by the evolutionary establishment.

In conclusion, Johnston’s first point does not address the ultimate origin of life and his third point is a matter of dispute. So the three points cannot be put together into a final argument. He has no proof.

I have online The Short Proof of Creation.