Evaluating the evidence for and against common descent

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

An article from Evolution News that takes a statement from an evolutionist who supports common descent, and then then refutes it point by point.

Here’s the case for common descent:

UCA is now supported by a wealth of evidence from many independent sources, including: (1) the agreement between phylogeny and biogeography; (2) the correspondence between phylogeny and the palaeontological record; (3) the existence of numerous predicted transitional fossils; (4) the hierarchical classification of morphological characteristics; (5) the marked similarities of biological structures with different functions (that is, homologies); and (6) the congruence of morphological and molecular phylogenies.

(Douglas L. Theobald, “A formal test of the theory of universal common ancestry,” Nature, Vol. 465:219-222 (May 13, 2010).)

And here’s a response to each of those points from the Evolution News post:

  • (1) Phylogeny and biogeography don’t always agree.
  • (2) Phylogeny and paleontology don’t always agree.
  • (3) Transitional fossils are often missing (or the “predicted” transitional fossils fall apart on closer inspection).
  • (4) Hierarchical classifications often fail.
  • (5) “Homologous” structures often have different developmental pathways or different structures often have “homologous” developmental pathways.
  • (6) Morphological and molecular phylogenies are often incongruent.

Before I read this post, I only knew about 3, 4, 5 and 6.

A related podcast

Casey Luskin did a good podcast explaining a problem with two kinds of evidence commonly used to argue for common ancestry.


On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin takes a keen-eyed look at Darwin’s tree of life and finds that common descent, far from being confirmed by the data, is actually contradicted by it, as New Scientist pointed out in their cover story, “Why Darwin was wrong about the tree of life.”

Listen in to learn how the data is challenging Darwinist assumptions, and check out “A Primer on the Tree of Life” for more information.

The MP3 file is here.

The paper linked above seems to be exactly what he read out loud in the podcast.

Here is one section from the paper that summarizes everything:

One authoritative review paper by Darwinian leaders in this field stated, “As morphologists with high hopes of molecular systematics, we end this survey with our hopes dampened. Congruence between molecular phylogenies is as elusive as it is in morphology and as it is between molecules and morphology.

Another set of pro-evolution experts wrote, “That molecular evidence typically squares with morphological patterns is a view held by many biologists, but interestingly, by relatively few systematists. Most of the latter know that the two lines of evidence may often be incongruent.

The two methods of determining ancestry are “often incongruent”. What I am looking for in order to be convinced of common ancestry is substantial agreement between morphological phylogenies and molecular phylogenies. I don’t see that, so I am still skeptical of common ancestry. Especially with all the examples of convergence that I keep finding out about.

One thought on “Evaluating the evidence for and against common descent”

  1. George Will, a conservative commenter and avowed atheist, on Bret Baier’s Fox News program stated a few months back that ‘Evolution is a fact, get over it’. I have two degrees, one in life science and the other in physical science. No one has ever convinced me that Evolution is a fact and the left leaning professors at all universities continue to teach students the same as Mr. Will.

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