Kerkut (was: Re: A case for Christianity that does use ID or YEC arguments)

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Tue Feb 03 2004 - 11:12:08 EST

Gary Collins wrote:
> ...
> PS not strictly relevant to this response, but has anyone come across G A Kerrkut's book, 'Implications of Evolution'?
> Prof Kerkut is (or was) an atheist, but one who has not been afraid to point out some of the big assumptions made by
> evolutionary biology. I haven't yet got hold of a copy. It's an old book, and at least some of its contents may now
> be out of date, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone who _has_ read it and has opinions of it.

Hi Gary,

the reference is:
G.A. Kerkut, "Implications of Evolution" (Pergamon Press Ltd., Oxford, 1960, Library
of Congress Card No. 60-9644, 174 pages).

It is vol.4 of the International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology,
Division: Zoology, General Editor: G.A. Kerkut. It has 10 pages of literature
references, a 2 page author index, and a 4 page subject index.

I own a copy, have read it and found it excellent. I must confess, however, that at
the time I read it, I considered macroevolution impossible (for scientific, not
theological reasons), whereas now, I think common descent of all species, including
humans, has been solidly documented by functionless homologies in DNA sequence data.

The contents of Kerkut's book are:
1 Introduction
2 Basic Assumptions
3 Viruses, Rickettsiae and Bacteria
4 The Protozoa
5 Origin of the Metazoa
6 The Most Primitive Metazoa
  (1 Porifera, 2 Mesozoa, 3 Coelenterata, 4 Ctenophora, 5 Platyhelminthes)
7 The Invertebrate Phyla
8 Biochemical Studies of Phylogeny
  (1 Phosphagens, 2 Sterols)
9 Vertebrate Paleontology
10 Conclusions

Quotations from ch.2:
  "... There are, however, seven basic assumptions that are often not mentioned
during discussions of Evolution. Many evolutionists ignore the first six assumptions
and only consider the seventh. These are as follows.
  (1) The first assumption is that non-living things gave rise to living material,
i.e. spontaneous generation occurred.
  (2) The second assumption is that spontaneous generation occurred only once.
  The other assumption all follow from the second one.
  (3) The third assumption is that viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are all
  (4) The fourth assumption is that the Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa.
  (5) The fifth assumption is that the various invertebrate phyla are all
  (6) The sixth assumption is that the invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates.
  (7) The seventh assumption is that within the vertebrates the fish gave rise to the
amphibia, the amphibia to the reptiles, and the reptiles to the birds and mammals.
Sometimes this is expressed in other words, i.e. that the modern amphibia and
reptiles had a common ancestral stock, and so on.
  ... The first point that I should like to make is that these seven assumptions by
their nature are not capable of experimental verification. ..."

In each of the following chapters, he describes the various conflicting views about
the evolutionary relationships postulated, and shows that usually all of them are
something like "science fiction" - or "just-so stories" as we would say today.

Quotations from ch.10:
  "... It seems at times as if many of our modern writers on evolution have had their
views by some sort of revelation and they base their opinions on the evolution of
life, from the simplest form to the complex, entirely on the nature of specific and
intra-specific evolution. It is possible that this type of evolution can explain many
of the present-day phenomena, but it is possible and indeed probable that many as yet
unknown systems remain to be discovered and it is premature, not to say arrogant, on
our part if we make any dogmatic assertion as to the mode of evolution of the major
branches of the animal kingdom.
  ... What alternative system can we use if we are not to assume that all animals can
be arranged in a genealogical manner? The alternative is to indicate that there are
many gaps and failures in our present system and that we must realise their
existence. It may be distressing for many readers to discover that so much in zoology
is open to doubt, but this in effect indicates the vast amount of work that remains
to be done. ... much of what we learn today are only half truths or less and the
students of tomorrow will not be bothered by many of the phlogistons that now torment
our brains. ... Most students become acquainted with many of the current concepts in
biology whilst still at school and at an age when most people are, on the whole,
uncritical. Then when they come to study the subject in more detail, they have in
their minds several half truths and misconceptions which tend to prevent them from
coming ro a fresh appraisal of the situation. In addition, with a uniform pattern of
education most students tend to have the same sort of educational background and so
in conversation and discussion they accept common fallacies and agree on matters
based on these fallacies.
  It would seem a good principle to encourage the study of «scientific heresies.»
There is always the danger that a reader might be seduced by one of these heresies
but the danger is neither as great nor as serious as the danger of having scientists
brought up in a type om mental strait-jacket or of taking them so quickly through a
subject that they have no time to analyse and digest the material they have
«studied.» ...
  There is a theory which states that many living animals can be observed over the
course of time to undergo changes so that new species are formed. This can be called
the «Specieal Theory of Evolution» and can be demonstrated in certain cases by
experiments. On the other hand there is the theory that all the living forms in the
world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form. This
theory can be called the «General Theory of Evolution» and the evidence that supports
it is not sufficiently strong to allow us to consider it as anything more than a
working hypothesis. It is not clear whether the changes that bring about speciation
are of the same nature as those that brought about the development of new phyla. The
answer will be found by future experimental work and not by dogmatic assertions that
the General Theory of Evolution must be correct because there is nothing else that
will satisfactorily take its place."

Many of the details of Kerkut's descriptions will have to be modified today, but his
basic critical approach was sound. The unprecedented richness of the sequence
information which we are privileged to have available today will make many of the
uncertainties of 50 years ago about the evolutionary relationships all but disappear.
But we are hardly any wiser today with respect to the mechanisms which produced novel
functions required during the generation of this tree of life.


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Tue Feb 3 11:09:22 2004

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