Category Archives: Evolution

Have Computer Simulations Proven Darwinian Evolution? Part 2

As we continue to look at computer simulations of Darwinian evolution, we come to our second major problem: even with intelligent intervention by the programmers of these simulations, they mostly fail to produce irreducibly complex systems. J. Warner Wallace resumes his analysis in God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe:

Even with the help of intelligent programmers and designers, many of these simulations fail to achieve their goal of creating the kind of complexity we see in the bacterial flagellum. Irreducibly complex structures, as first described by Michael Behe, are highly improbable systems in which the removal of a single structural element renders the system inoperable. In addition, these efficient systems are “composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function” of the system. These individual parts are also complex in their own right. The simplest building blocks in Behe’s examples are typically single proteins (which, in and of themselves, are very complex).

Many of the computer simulations we’ve described fail to produce truly irreducible structures, truly complex building pieces, or integrated systems with well-matched, interacting parts. The Ev project, for example, produced systems capable of operating when a binding site was removed. As a result, the system is not truly irreducible like the biological examples described by Behe. Adrian Thompson’s digital experiment suffers the same flaw; it also produced circuits capable of operating when some of their parts were removed and, therefore, cannot be used as a model for producing irreducible complexity.

Many of the simulations produced only trivially complex structures (on the level of an amino acid rather than a protein) and were incapable of producing the component sophistication seen in irreducibly complex biological systems. The Avida and Ev projects and Sadedin’s geometric model fall into this category. Finally, most of the computer simulations were unable to define the roles of each part in the context of the whole. This is important because “well-matched, interacting parts” can’t be evaluated unless we first know the role of each part. For this reason, computer simulations fail to address a key attribute of irreducible complexity.

In summary, computer simulations of Darwinian evolution have smuggled intelligent intervention into their models and still cannot produce the kinds of complex biological systems that are found in plants and animals. So, is Dawkins right about computer simulations proving the effectiveness of Darwinian evolution? Not really, no.

If the intelligent design movement has proven anything, it’s that biological organisms are loaded with complex, specified information. Complex, specified information only comes from intelligent agents, but Darwinian evolution does not allow for intelligent agents. Therefore, no computer simulation which accurately models Darwinian evolution will ever succeed.

Have Computer Simulations Proven Darwinian Evolution? Part 1

I remember years ago watching a documentary starring Richard Dawkins. In the documentary, Dawkins spent a lot of time demonstrating how computer simulations have shown that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection are capable of generating complex biological organisms. No intelligence was required, argued Dawkins, only the blind evolutionary process. Being a former design engineer who used computer simulations every day of my career, I was immediately skeptical of Dawkins’ use of simulations to “prove” Darwinian evolution works.

J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, presents evidence and arguments that confirm that the simulations used by Darwinian proponents do not, in fact, prove that random mutation and natural selection can build complex biological organisms.

Wallace begins with an introduction to some of the more famous Darwinian simulations:

A number of scientists and researchers have attempted to demonstrate the power evolution has to create irreducibly complex systems (and the appearance of design) by designing sophisticated digital simulations driven by elaborate computer programs. Research of this nature has been ongoing for many years. The Avida project claimed to explore the “evolutionary origin of complex features.” The Ev project attempted to provide an evolutionary explanation for the regions in DNA and RNA (binding sites) where chemical bonds are formed with other molecules. Theoretical biologist Suzanne Sadedin also formulated a geometric model for irreducible complexity and then claimed to have created a simulation to achieve such complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent. The work of Adrian Thompson is also cited by skeptics who claim Thompson’s digital experiment to evolve frequency-discerning circuits is evidence irreducible complexity can be achieved by evolutionary processes.

Wallace asks, “Do computer simulations demonstrate evolution is capable of producing irreducibly complex biological structures? While skeptics often cite these efforts, they fail to account for irreducible complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent.”

The first problem is that many of these simulations smuggle in an intelligent designer from the beginning.

Many efforts to create a computer simulation mimicking the evolutionary process are flawed from the onset because they incorporate the involvement of an intelligent designer from their very inception. The Avida programmers “‘stacked the deck’ by studying the evolution of a complex feature that could be built on simpler functions that were also useful.” Sadedin’s geometric model was designed in advance to allow for the easy growth of large geometric shapes. Both Avida and the geometric models do not create true Darwinian processes because they are explicitly and intelligently designed to assist the evolution of an irreducibly complex system.

In other words, these models of Darwinian evolution contain built-in information that helps the simulation produce more impressive results, but this is clearly cheating. Darwinian evolution in the real world doesn’t have this information built into it.

In part 2, we’ll look at the second major problem with these computer simulations: even with intelligent intervention by the programmers of these simulations, they mostly fail to produce irreducibly complex systems.

Is There Any Scientific Controversy Over Darwinian Evolution? Part 2

After writing part 1 of this blog post almost 3 years ago, I received several comments along the lines of, “Just because one scientist, James Shapiro, disagrees with the idea that natural selection acting on random mutations is the main engine of evolutionary change, does not mean there is a controversy.”

My goal in quoting Shapiro was not to state merely that Shapiro diverges from evolutionary orthodoxy, but to encourage the reader to go off and do some more reading to see that there are many more dissenting scientists, just like him. To help along that process, I’ve quoted from an article below that lists several more examples of the controversy. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but is meant to lead truly curious readers to do more reading themselves. For those of you who have already decided that there is no controversy, don’t waste your time reading any further. You’ll just get more upset.

Here is Casey Luskin in an article he wrote for the Christian Research Journal titled “The New Theistic Evolutionists.” Luskin notes that

highly credible scientists doubt the neo-Darwinian view that natural selection acting on random mutation was the driving force building the complexity of life. Lynn Margulis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, explained that “neo-Darwinists say that new species emerge when mutations occur and modify an organism,” and admitted, “I believed it until I looked for evidence.”

In 2008, sixteen leading biologists convened in Altenberg, Austria, to discuss problems with the neo-Darwinian synthesis. When covering this conference, Nature quoted leading scientists saying things like “evolutionary theory has told us little about” important events like “the origin of wings and the invasion of the land.”

That same year, Cornell evolutionary biologist William Provine explained that “every assertion of the evolutionary synthesis below is false,” including: “natural selection was the primary mechanism at every level of the evolutionary process,” “macroevolution was a simple extension of microevolution,” and “evolution produces a tree of life.”

Luskin adds:

The following year, leading biologist Eugene Koonin wrote that breakdowns in core neo-Darwinian tenets such as the “traditional concept of the tree of life” or that “natural selection is the main driving force of evolution” indicate “the modem synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.” . . . Koonin mentioned growing skepticism over the “tree of life,” and the technical literature contains numerous examples of conflicting evolutionary trees, challenging universal common ancestry.

An article in Nature reported that “disparities between molecular and morphological trees” lead to “evolution wars” because “evolutionary trees constructed by studying biological molecules often don’t resemble those drawn up from morphology.” Another Nature paper reported that newly discovered genes “are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree,” since they “give a totally different tree from what everyone else wants.”

A 2009 article in New Scientist observes that “many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded.” So severe are problems that a 2012 paper in Annual Review of Genetics proposed “life might indeed have multiple origins.”

Again, if you want to argue that there is no controversy, you are simply ignorant of what’s going on. Instead of trying to shout down any one who says there is a controversy, your time would be better spent spend studying the differing views on evolution so that you can truly understand the issues involved.

Does the Euthyphro Dilemma Apply to Evolutionary Ethics?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

One of the most popular, but misguided, challenges that atheists fling at theists is Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma. I have written about why this is no dilemma at all for theists in other blog posts, so I won’t cover that ground again now.

Philosopher Matt Flannagan, though, has introduced a new wrinkle in this debate. Flannagan argues persuasively that the Euthyphro Dilemma is actually a serious problem for those who argue that morality is the product of evolution.

In an article in the Christian Research Journal (vol. 36, number 01), Flannagan specifically challenges the position of Jerry Coyne, a biologist and outspoken atheist. Flannagan claims that “Coyne’s own secular account of morality falls prey to the Euthyphro dilemma.” Here is Flannagan:

After claiming that moral obligations cannot be constituted by God’s commands, Coyne offers an alternative: morality comes from evolution—humans evolved a capacity to instinctively feel that certain actions are wrong.

This position is pretty standard among many atheists that I speak to, so Coyne serves as a useful proxy for the wider atheist crowd. How is Coyne’s account susceptible to the Dilemma?

Plato’s question [in his dialogue Euthyphro] is equally applicable here. One can ask, “Are actions wrong because we have evolved a disposition to condemn them, or do we condemn them because they are wrong?” If the latter is the case, then actions are wrong prior to, and hence independently of, evolution, and so ethics is independent of evolution.

So how does Coyne avoid this problem?

To avoid this implication, Coyne must adopt the first option: actions are wrong because we have evolved an instinctive disposition to condemn these actions. The problem is this option makes morality arbitrary. Couldn’t evolution have produced rational beings that felt that infanticide and theft were obligatory or that rape was, in certain circumstances, OK?

As Darwin himself noted, “If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.”

So option 1, for Coyne, is also very troubling because now morality is arbitrary, based on the randomness of the evolutionary lottery.

Coyne is left with either affirming that 1) morality existed prior to and independent of evolution, or he must affirm 2) that morality is really just arbitrary because moral values could have turned out very differently. Now that’s a real dilemma.

What Questions about Evolution Have Really Been Answered?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Microbiologist James Shapiro, in his book Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, makes some common sense statements about the controversy over evolution. Remember that Shapiro is no young earth creationist. He is firmly entrenched as an important figure in the world of evolutionary science. Here is what Shapiro says:

General discussions of evolution, especially in the context of the “Intelligent Design” controversy, suffer from an unfortunate conflation in the minds of the lay public (and also of scientists) of three distinct questions:

• The origin of life

• The evidentiary basis for an evolutionary process

• The nature of evolutionary change

Almost universally, the term Darwinism is assumed to be synonymous with a scientific approach that has provided satisfactory answers to all three questions. It is to be hoped that, by now, you realize that these three questions are individually complex and that two of them are quite far from having coherent scientific explanations.

We have little solid science on the origin of life, in large part because there is virtually no physical record, but also because we still have gaps in our understanding of what constitute the fundamental principles of life.

As to the actual nature of evolutionary change processes, you have seen in Parts II and III [of his book] that cytogenetic observations, laboratory experiments, and, above all, molecular evidence about genome sequence changes tell us that the simplifying assumptions made in the 19th and early 20th Centuries are plainly wrong. They fail to account for the variety of cellular and genomic events we now know to have occurred. It should be emphasized that many change events have been quite rapid and have involved the whole genome—notably, symbiosis, interspecific hybridization, and whole genome doubling.

Shapiro goes on to say that he does believe that the second question has been answered.

The one issue that has effectively been settled in a convincing way is the evidence for a process of evolutionary change over the past three billion years. The reason the answer to this question is so solid is that every new technological development in biological investigation—from the earliest days of paleontology through light microscopy and cytogenetics up to our current molecular sequence methodologies—has told the same story: living organisms, past and present, are related to each other, share evolutionary inventions, and have changed dramatically over the history of the Earth.

However, little evidence fits unequivocally with the theory that evolution occurs through the gradual accumulation of “numerous, successive, slight modifications.” On the contrary, clear evidence exists for abrupt events of specific kinds at all levels of genome organization. These sudden changes range from horizontal transfers and the movement of transposable elements through chromosome rearrangements to whole genome duplications and cell fusions.

I can agree with Shapiro, on this last question, to a point. I don’t think we are clear on how all organisms are related, but we certainly understand how some organisms are related. We can also see that life forms have changed dramatically over the history of the earth. I would also agree that the second question is immensely more settled than the first and third questions.

Unfortunately, as Shapiro remarks, scientists tend to conflate all three of these questions as if they are one and the same. I am thankful that a biologist of Shapiro’s stature  has attempted to clear up this confusion.

How Is a Mouse Different from a Man?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Ever since technology advanced to the point that scientists could map out entire genomes of various animals, we have been hearing how human beings are extremely similar to other mammals at the level of genes. These similarities always make news, but I have always found these similarities to be much ado about nothing.

After all, I can see with my very own eyes that humans and mice are massively different, so when biologists told me that mice and men were basically the same, I figured that their metric for comparison was being oversold.

In a NY Times article from 2002, Nicholas Wade wrote that “only about 300 genes — 1 percent of the 30,000 possessed by the mouse — have no obvious counterpart in the human genome.” So, we are told that humans and mice are 99% similar, based on their genes.

We have also been told that virtually all the information needed to construct a plant or animal is found in the genes which code for proteins, which would imply that the instructions for constructing a mouse are 99% similar to the instructions for constructing a human. This “fact” of biology never made sense to me, as I can see that mice and humans are constructed quite differently, far more than 1% differently, however we might want to count that 1%.

James Shapiro, in his book Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, explains that I wasn’t wrong after all. There is far more to the construction of an animal than the genes that code for proteins. Shapiro states,

The traditional view has been that related species differ in their repertoire of individual “genes.” But a more contemporary Evo-Devo perspective is that much of morphological change in evolution occurs by modification of expression through alteration of enhancers and other transcriptional regulatory signals, as well as distinct patterns of epigenetic formatting.

Translation: genes are not the only determinants of evolutionary body changes. There is a whole other world behind the genes that scientists have only recently been discovering. Shapiro continues:

Comparing mice and men, the “genes” stay largely the same, but their deployment differs. The bones, ligaments, muscles, skin, and other tissues are similar, but their morphogeneses and growth follow distinct patterns. In other words, humans and mice share most of their proteins, and the most obvious differences in morphology and metabolism can be attributed to distinct regulatory patterns in late embryonic and postnatal development.

The way I read this is that if we think of a human as a “house,” and a mouse as a different “house,” it is true that both houses are constructed with wood, cinder block, nails, glass, etc. That is what the genes give us, the raw materials of the house.

And that’s interesting, as far as it goes. But the actual construction of the house involves far more than raw materials. What is more important is the architecture, the drawings, that specify how the raw materials will be used to build the house. The mouse “house” is like a 100 square feet shanty, whereas the human “house” is like a 10,000 square feet exquisite mansion.

Sure, they are made out of similar materials, but to say that the shanty and mansion are 99% similar is grossly misleading, don’t you think?

Not Your Grandmother’s Evolution

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

I just finished reading James Shapiro’s book, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century. Shapiro is Professor of Microbiology at the University of Chicago and a deeply influential figure in evolutionary biology.

He is not a fellow at the Discovery Institute, but, shockingly, he finds the currently popular evolutionary mechanisms of natural selection and random mutation to be woefully inadequate to explain how biological evolution occurs. Shapiro’s book is difficult reading, as he has written it, it seems to me, primarily for professional biologists. There are, however, several places in the book where he brings things back down to earth for the layperson. I’d like to share a couple of his thoughts.

Contrary to the popular view that changes in the genome occur randomly in single nucleotides, Shapiro claims that “genomic innovations occur at many different levels of complexity.” We know this because “we can observe genome reorganization in real time and relate what cells do now to what the DNA record tells us has happened over the course of evolution.”

So what is it microbiologists have found?

Genomic innovations occur at many different levels of complexity. These levels cover the entire range of DNA modifications: from single nucleotide substitutions, to short strings of nucleotides comprising regulatory signals, to longer polynucleotide strings encoding functional regions (“domains”) of protein molecules, through larger DNA segments encoding entire RNA or protein molecules, and finally extending to complexes of multiple coding segments and their attendant control regions.

In a surprisingly large number of cases, genome analysis tells us that reorganization events have comprised whole genomes. Because genome evolution is multilevel, amplifying, and combinatorial in nature, the end results are complex hierarchical structures with characteristic system architectures.

Genomes are sophisticated data storage organelles integrated into the cellular and multicellular life cycles of each distinct organism. Thinking about genomes from an informatic perspective, it is apparent that systems engineering is a better metaphor for the evolutionary process than the conventional view of evolution as a selection-biased random walk through the limitless space of possible DNA configurations. (emphasis added)

If you didn’t follow all of that, here is the bottom line. Genetic changes in organisms are far more complex, multilevel, and systems oriented than previously thought. So what does this say about the standard Darwinian view of evolution as the gradual accumulation of random point changes in the genome over long periods of time? Shapiro explains that

the advent of molecular genetics and genome sequencing was a major step forward in evolutionary science. Examining the DNA record made it possible to subject traditional evolution theories to rigorous empirical testing. Do the sequences of contemporary genomes fit the predictions of change by “numerous, successive, slight variations,” as Darwin stated, or do they contain evidence of other, more abrupt processes, as numerous other thinkers had asserted?

The data are overwhelmingly in favor of the saltationist school that postulated major genomic changes at key moments in evolution. Only by restricting their analyses to certain classes of genomic DNA, such as homologous protein coding sequences, can conventional evolutionists apply their gradualist models. Moreover, we will see from genome sequencing that protein evolution itself often proceeds in relatively large steps. Contrary to the views of Linnaeus and Darwin, nature does indeed make leaps, and we now have molecular evidence of how some leaps occurred. (emphasis added)

One of the central dogmas of evolution, that change occurs by “numerous, successive, slight variations,” is wrong, according to Shapiro. Intelligent design proponents have been making this same argument for decades, but it seems that they now have company. I have no idea where this will all end up, but the ne0-Darwinian edifice continues to crack.

What Explains the Existence of Objective Evil?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Objective evil exists.  When we observe the world around us, we realize that there are many things about the world that should not be, things that are wrong.  When we see a child abused, we immediately know that it is evil; we know it is wrong, that it should not be.  When we see thousands die in an earthquake, we know this should not be.  We know it is wrong.  There is no doubt that there is evil in the world, that there are things that should not be.

So, any worldview which claims to explain all of reality had better have a good explanation of how this could be true.

How does atheistic naturalism explain the existence of evil? Naturalists must look to evolutionary biology to explain why humans believe there is evil in the world.  They reason that evolution has caused human beings to have negative feelings or emotions about certain aspects of the world because those negative emotions have somehow helped the human species to survive in the past. We feel badly about children being tortured because our genes are programmed by millions of years of natural selection to make us feel that way.

Notice that naturalism can say nothing about whether torturing children is really and ultimately wrong, or that thousands of people dying in an earthquake is really wrong.  Why? Because for something to be ultimately wrong, there must exist a standard of what is ultimately right, a standard that tells us what the world should be like.  In other words, evil presupposes that the world has purpose.

On naturalism, the world just is the way it is.  The world has come to exist in its present state by the operation of physical forces and sheer chance.  There is no ultimate purpose to the world, and thus there is no way that the world should be.

Evil reduces to each person’s feelings about what they don’t like, which is determined by evolutionary biology and our environment.  Naturalists believe that statements like, “It is wrong to torture children” really mean nothing more than “I have negative feelings when children are tortured.”

Christian theists, on the other hand, recognize that there is an ultimate purpose to the world, that there is a way the world should be.  Purpose for the world is given by the mind of God.  God tells us through his words in the Bible and through the natural world he created, what his purposes are.

Christians know that torturing children is really and ultimately wrong because we know that God did not create children for the purpose of them being tortured.  Children were created so that they could be loved and come to know God.

We also know that in God’s original creation, human beings were not supposed to die in earthquakes.  That was not his purpose for human beings.  So when people die in earthquakes, we can confidently say that those deaths are wrong, that they are evil, that they should not be.

Christian theism makes sense of the fact that objective evil really exists in the world.  Atheistic naturalism does not.

Why Does the Denial of Moral Facts Undercut Knowledge of Any Kind?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Moral skeptics frequently argue that evolution has tricked us into thinking that our moral judgments are based on mind-independent moral facts. Even though it seems like our moral judgments are examples of authentic reasoning, they are not. Joshua Greene is a typical voice of moral skepticism:

Moral judgment is, for the most part, driven not by moral reasoning, but by moral intuitions of an emotional nature. Our capacity for moral judgment is a complex evolutionary adaptation to an intensely social life. We are, in fact, so well adapted to making moral judgments that our making them is, from our point of view, rather easy, a part of “common sense.” And like many of our common sense abilities, our ability to make moral judgments feels to us like a perceptual ability, an ability, in this case, to discern immediately and reliably mind-independent moral facts. As a result, we are naturally inclined toward a mistaken belief in moral realism. The psychological tendencies that encourage this false belief serve an important biological purpose, and that explains why we should find moral realism so attractive even though it is false. Moral realism is, once again, a mistake we were born to make.

Although we may think we are making moral judgments based on mind-independent moral facts, this is imply an illusion caused by evolution. We are simply mistaken to think that moral facts actually exist. According to “New Atheist” Sam Harris, “Greene alleges that moral realism assumes that ‘there is sufficient uniformity in people’s underlying moral outlooks to warrant speaking as if there is a fact of the matter about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ ‘just’ or ‘unjust.’’

Harris asks:

But do we really need to assume such uniformity for there to be right answers to moral questions? Is physical or biological realism predicated on “sufficient uniformity in people’s underlying [physical or biological] outlooks”? Taking humanity as a whole, I am quite certain that there is a greater consensus that cruelty is wrong (a common moral precept) than the passage of time varies with velocity (special relativity) or that humans and lobsters share a common ancestor (evolution). Should we doubt whether there is a “fact of the matter” with respect to these physical and biological truth claims?

Greene concludes that moral intuitions cannot be trusted, but that science can:

[M] oral theorizing fails because our intuitions do not reflect a coherent set of moral truths and were not designed by natural selection or anything else to behave as if they were … If you want to make sense of your moral sense, turn to biology, psychology, and sociology— not normative ethics.

Is this true? Did natural selection fail to design moral truth tracking, but succeed in designing biological, psychological, and sociological truth tracking? In other words, did evolution bequeath us the ability to discover mind-independent, objective facts about non-moral domains of knowledge? Harris argues that this is a dangerous move for the moral skeptic to make. The price to be paid is high. Harris explains:

This objection to moral realism may seem reasonable, until one notices that it can be applied, with the same leveling effect, to any domain of human knowledge. For instance, it is just as true to say that our logical, mathematical, and physical intuitions have not been designed by natural selection to track the Truth. Does this mean that we must cease to be realists with respect to physical reality?

Deny that moral facts exist and you end up having to deny that truths of any kind exist. There is no way, says Harris, to argue that evolution gave us the ability to know facts about logic, math, and physical reality, while at the same time fooling us about the existence of moral facts. It’s a package deal, like it or not.

Why Can’t Evolution Be the Source of Transcendent Moral Values?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In two previous blog posts (here and here), I have called attention to the fact that human beings universally take for granted that our moral judgments transcend time, place, and species. We judge certain actions to be morally right or wrong regardless of when these actions occurred, where they occurred, and also regardless of which species of intelligent agent has acted. I take these truths to be indisputable, based on our common human experience.

Biological evolution is a group of many and varied processes which act on all organisms to produce the great diversity of life on earth. These processes have operated on life in dramatically different ways depending on the particular time in earth’s history, the particular places where life resides, and depending on the type of organic species.

I take it that when a person says, “Evolution is the source of moral values,” they are saying that the process of evolution has produced particular bio-chemical brain states in human beings that we identify as moral values and duties. So, here are the problems for those who want to claim that biological evolution is the ground or source of transcendent moral values.

With regard to time, the very word “evolution” entails change over time. A thing could not be said to evolve if it stayed exactly the same forever. Evolution, then, is working to modify and change all organisms all the time. It seems to me to be completely incoherent to claim that timeless, unchanging moral values have been produced by a process which, by its very nature, is changing everything on which it operates. If we are looking for a fixed, time-independent source of moral values, I cannot see how biological evolution even remotely fits the bill.

With regard to place, the results of evolutionary processes are quite dependent on geography. This was one of Darwin’s first insights about evolution, that geography is a major factor in the way that evolution produces biological diversity. No evolutionary biologist would claim that the effects of evolutionary processes are the same across our planet, or even on other planets (assuming life exists elsewhere). But if moral values are independent of place, then how can a process which produces completely different effects from place to place possibly produce moral values?

With regard to species, let’s first look at gods, angels, and demons. Evolutionary processes simply do not apply to immaterial beings. Even an atheist who does not believe that these beings exist, would at least grant that if they did exist, biological evolution would not operate on them. But if evolution is the source of moral values, then how is it coherent to apply evolved brain states in human beings to non-human agents who themselves never evolved?

What about intelligent aliens? An evolutionist would say that aliens, if they existed, did evolve through biological processes, but there is a different problem here. How in the world does it make sense to apply the evolved brain states of human beings to alien beings who evolved completely different brain states? It is inconceivable, given evolutionary processes alone, that alien brains would evolve the exact same moral values that human beings evolved.

As we’ve seen, though, human beings feel very natural in making moral judgments about spiritual beings and aliens alike. We all take for granted that all intelligent agents should be operating under the exact same moral principles. If evolution is the source  of moral values, then we are completely unjustified in morally judging non-human intelligent agents.

To summarize, evolutionary processes are totally and completely inadequate to ground moral values that transcend time, place, and species. If evolution were truly the ground of moral values, then we would only be justified in judging the actions of other members of our human species who live at the same time and place as we do. Since none of us restrict our moral judgments in that way, then clearly evolution cannot be the source of moral values.