The Irony of the Geosynclinal Theory

Posted: June 20, 2012 in geology related
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This is a re-post from:


To illustrate what theories other than Darwinian evolution do when they’re worn out and ready to die, our reader John in Kansas City, MO, had this comment on Casey’s article “For Intelligent-Design Advocates, Lessons from the Debate over Continental Drift“:

I graduated with a degree in Geology in 1962. My historical geology book that had a 1960 copyright explains that there are two things all scientists agree upon, one is evolutionary theory and the other is geosynclinal theory. The latter is the idea that mountains emerge from offshore troughs that accumulate tons of sediments and then snap like a rubber band to throw up giant mountain chains. I recall visiting the Rocky Mountains on a geology summer camp in Wyoming in 1962 and observing a part of the Lewis Overthrust, which seemed quite inconsistent with that theory.Ten years later the entire paradigm changed because of the overwhelming evidence supporting plate tectonics.

Why hasn’t the same kind of evidence thrown out random mutation and natural selection? The answer is that evolution deals with a religious issue — where do we come from and what is the nature of life, while the cause of physical systems like mountains does not. It makes no religious difference whether mountains come from shifting plates or geosynclines. It does make a religious difference if life comes from mind rather than matter.

Here is the quote from the book. I still have it on my shelf:

The geosynclinal theory is one of the great unifying principles of geology. In many ways its role in geology is similar to that of evolution that serves to integrate the many branches of biological sciences. The geosynclinal theory is of fundamental importance to sedimentation, petrology, geomorphology, ore deposits, structural geology, geophysics, and practically all the minor branches of geological science. Just as the doctrine of organic evolution is universally accepted among thinking biologists, so also the geosynclinal origin of the major mountain ranges is an established principle in geology.[Thomas Clark and Colin Stearn, The Geological Evolution of North America: A Regional Approach to Historical Geology, p.43 (Ronald Press, 1960)]

Theories come, theories go. Except when, having exceeded their natural lifespan, they cling to a false life that keeps them out of the grave and moving about but still desiccated, cadaverous and weary, a kind of undead version of a scientific idea. If it were a character in horror and fantasy literature, Darwinian evolutionary theory would be called a lich.

  1. Adam Benton says:

    Could it not just be that evolution has yet to be refuted like other abandoned theories have?

    • matthew2262 says:

      Well, many would argue that it has been refuted in a variety of ways; the neutral to negative effect of virtually all observed mutations, the vitality of DNA that is no longer considered “junk,” lack of transitional fossils, no observable mechanism for the formation of life from non-life and likewise the source of information, and so on and so forth. The ever changing framework of which is always being revised, as the previous is refuted. Of course, anytime any one part of evolution theory is dismantled and refuted a new theory emerges and stands until it too is refuted, after which another new theory takes it place, and thus the cycle continues.

      I can’t help but quote the evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith who wrote, “Evolution is unproved and unprovable [sic]. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.” Or the professor and charimen of Evolutionary sciences at the University of London who wrote, ““…evolution itself is accepted by zoologists, not because it has been observed to occur or can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is incredible.”

      The point being that a subject like evolution has support from a scientific community that already has the presupposition that evolution is the only possible means to account for the life here on earth. Therefore, if it is the only way, then anytime a part of it is refuted a different theory must take that part’s place to continue on with the evolutionary framework. It therefore takes on an almost unfalsifiable identity because no one will let it die. Which ties into the article I posted; that people will not let it die because of the implications behind it. The Geosynclinal theory had no life altering implications behind it, therefore once refuted it was dead. Evolution theory on the otherhand, has incredible implications behind it, and those that maintain there is no God, or maybe more specifically no personal religion-based God, cannot afford to let it die and will keep it going at whatever cost. Even if it means radically reworking the framework of the theory consistantly over the years.

      Thank you for your comment Adam

      • Adam Benton says:

        Except most of those objections are simply incorrect. Many beneficial mutations have been observed (a fact even Answers in Genesis admits); most of our DNA remains non-functional and there are over 800 hominin fossils alone, ignoring the other fossil lineages we’ve discovered. Like the arguments, your quotes are also invalid. There is no record of Sir Keith writing such a thing and whilst Watson (the zoologist quoted) did write a similar passage, he did follow it with “[evolution] does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution.”

        As such using those arguments to suggest that evolution is refuted isn’t a viable strategy which may go someway to explaining why it is accepted. However, I suspect a bigger reason that science continues to use evolution is that it continues to be vindicated by the evidence. Not only do we observe that the principles necessary for evolution to occur in nature but there is significant evidence that they are responsible for life on earth. Not only are the plethora of aforementioned fossils but there is also a vast quantity of molecular (i.e. the GULO psuedogene) and genetic evidence (i.e. human chromosome 2) for common descent.

        Whilst the theory continues to be refined (what is so bad about changing an idea to make it more consistent with reality) the vast majority of scientists continue to accept the 3 fundamental tenants by Charles Darwin over 150 years ago.

        1. Organisms reproduce with variation

        2. There is competition between organisms to reproduce

        3. Some variants are more successful than others

  2. matthew2262 says:

    Hi Adam. Thank you for your comment. After reading it here are my thoughts: I should perhaps start off by restating that when I spoke of mutations I spoke of negative and neutral mutations, the key being neutral. True, there have been many observed positive mutations, but virtually all have additional negative side effects, rendering them neutral mutations. In fact, if there were genuine pure positive mutations with no negative side effects, they would have to be occurring at an incredibly overwhelming rate to account for the variety of life present today (if macroevolution is indeed correct). Yet, we do not observe this in biology. Additionally, I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that most of our DNA is non-functional, when it has been widely recognized, for a few years now at the very least, that the “Junk DNA” position has been completely thrown out. Even my textbook from my Human Genetics Applications course from 2008 states that most (if not all) of our genome is transcribed. It isn’t mostly non-functional but all functional. I posted some quotes regarding this that can be found here; Furthermore, the 800 hominin fossils becomes a position of world view, like most of the issues here. If you want the fossils (which are usually partial and incomplete) to fit into a presupposed evolutionary perspective of man evolving from a primitive ape-like ancestors you can do it by pointing out the few similarities in anatomy and ignoring the hundreds of differences between our anatomy. It becomes an issue of personal interpretation, which is why there is often much dispute within anthropology circles regarding the exact classification of hominin fossils.

    The Sir Keith quote is from Criswell’s Did Man Just Happen?, but in researching the origins of the quote from a 100th anniversary edition of Origin of Species, it appears the quote is unfounded as you said. I’ll be sure to disregard any future use of it, thank you for bringing it up. Regardless, many other prominent evolutionists have likewise spoken on such grounds. With Watson, it seems to me that the point is that regardless of where the evidence fits (which can be fitted to either evolution or creation framework) a prior decision is made to reject any notion of special creation beforehand. Additionally, he only notes that the evidence fits, not that it has been observed, and there are many scientists that argue the evidence does not fit.

    In regards to L-gulonolactone oxidase, there are studies suggesting it has function, and if this ends up being the case, as it is more and more for other pseudogenes, then it is no longer the result of common ancestry and instead highly improbable convergence. Likewise, the GULO pseudogene has been found in the Guinea Pig, which as I understand, primates are not supposed to be related to. In regards to chromosome 2, it is only theory that this chromosome is the result of two chimp chromosomes fused together. The only way for this to actually occur would require one of our supposed ape-like ancestor with a random translocation resulting in 47 chromosomes to mate with another ape having the same random translocation, to provide offspring with 46 chromosomes. Though such a mating pair would run a high risk of producing offspring with monosomy and trisomy (both unlikely to be survivable) or simply another 47 chromosome offspring. For a 46 chromosome offspring outcome to persist in a population it would need to have some apparent advantage. A very unlikely occurrence would have to occur over and over again in order for this theory to be correct. Chromosomes, in general, greatly vary with random assortments of similarities that jump around the animal kingdom in no apparent order overall to match the evolutionary tree of common ancestry. By and large, genetic similarities are no different than any other homologous similarities between animals which can fit into a creationist or ID framework of a Creator utilizing common design to achieve a function. More over, it cannot be overlooked the incredible amount of differences between humans and chimps at a genetic level.

    My issues with the framework of evolution changing so frequently is not in regards to refinement. Refinement of a theory is a necessary product of science over time. My issues lie with the constant changing of evolution theory when encountering major obstructions that would under normal circumstances warrant scrapping a theory and starting from scratch. There is a reason why the modern synthesis for evolution has for the most part been completely changed from its origin to now ( i.e. Neo-Darwinism) with the only similarity being a general notion of molecules to man evolution driven by natural selection. The processes required for this to occur (the most important parts) are radically different from Darwin’s scientific understanding from 150 years ago. When it comes to other scientific theories, we see little refinements here and there over long spans of time and an absolute consensus among scientists, yet with evolution theory it is constantly being reworked and disputed. I have further reservations about the constant changes due to the dogma surrounding it, and the subsequent reaction to those who oppose particular facets of evolution theory. For such a non-static theory there is an alarming outcry against anyone who challenges a particular tenant of it, or the entire concept in general, with observational evidence and logical deduction, whether by an ID Scientist, Creation Scientist or an evolution scientist themselves. Such bias is by definition anti-scientific.

    The fundamental tenants you present by Darwin are observable. But they’re tenants of natural selection, not macroevolution. Yes, natural selection is an observable process, and scientists continue to adhere to it as they rightfully should. But natural selection doesn’t equal macro evolution because it only refines exiting genetic information, it doesn’t in anyway create new genetic information which is what macroevolution requires. Furthermore, the concept of Natural Selection was first introduced by Edward Blyth, a Bible believing man, in 1835 in the Magazine of Natural History as I understand, 22 years prior to Drawin’s published findings. Natural Selection doesn’t interfere with a Creationist or ID framework for biological life. It is at least, one thing we can all agree on.

    Thank you for your comment Adam.

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