Phylogenetics is one of the primary roots of evolutionary dogma. It is perhaps one of the foremost evidence cited for the evolutionary worldview and is meant to prove that everything descends from a common ancestor. Some evolutionists and atheists have made whole careers out of touting phylogenetics as the ultimate proof of evolutionary dogma. But does this claim hold any water? This article will address some of the common claims put forward about phylogenetics and why they do not provide any evidence for evolution.
Phylogenetic trees, which are what evolutionists use to illustrate the results of their phylogenetic studies, attempt to determine the common ancestor of a group of organisms. These groups could be as small as several subspecies within a species, or as large as every organism that has ever lived on earth. Numerous books have been written attempting to illustrate the phylogeny of all organisms that have ever lived. They deduce these hypothetical lineages using comparisons of various physical and genetic traits of organisms.
Once the evolutionists have assembled their data, they use a statistical technique known as cladistics to compare these traits across the organisms. While there is more complicated math behind it, essentially cladistics boils down to quantifying traits based on presence or absence, statistically represented by ones and zeros. This assumes each trait selected is equivalent (more on that below). This statistical analysis also assumes that similarity in structure and function is equivalent to common ancestry.
There is a certain appeal to statistics. After all, it is simply running numbers through a formula. Since this is largely computerized these days, it is assumed the result of a mathematical equation is correct, unless the person performing it miscalculated, an error removed in the age of computers. What most people do not think about is the potential bias of the people putting in the numbers. My college statistics teacher had a saying he liked to use to emphasize this. “There are three kinds of liars. Liars, blankety blank liars, and statisticians.” In other words, the person performing the math can produce whatever results they want, simply by adjusting the variables.
Even if we could completely rely on the evolutionists not to fudge numbers in order to get results they want, they make two key assumptions about their cladistic method which are both deadly. The first assumption is that all traits are equally valuable to determine ancestry. This assumption really doesn’t work. For example, birds lay eggs, but so do fish. While evolutionists do assume that, ultimately, birds are descended from fish, no evolutionist claims they are closely related. Thus egg laying as a trait has less value than say, having feathers. Yet evolutionists would value both traits the same in their cladistic datasets. This simply does not work.
However, evolutionists have a problem. If they value all traits equally when they clearly are not, then their resultant datasets are going to be faulty. If, however, they decide to assign numbers reflective of the value of each trait, then they are introducing arbitrariness into the process. Who decides what traits are valuable? No two scientists would agree on how to rate a given trait.
This problem is exasperated by their assumption that similarity in structure is evidence of common ancestry. It is most certainly not, as even many evolutionists obliquely recognize. For example in my presentation on annual killifish I mention that evolutionist believes the annual lifestyle evolved separately at least six times. Convergent evolution is another regular topic of discussion within the evolutionary community. In discussing this, they tacitly admit that there are numerous groups where similar traits exist but are not closely related. It would seem, based on their own dogma, that similarity in structure does not equal common ancestry.
Phylogenetic trees can seem very intimidating, particularly when presented forcefully as evidence for evolution. However, the relationships many of them describe, exist only in the heads of scientists, not in the real world. Phylogenetics is rife with problems, many of which are foundational to how it is performed and thus undermine the integrity of its results. Because of the assumptions it makes, as well as the ability of the researchers to make their numbers say whatever they want them to say, phylogenetics cannot provide any evidence for evolution.