Progressive Gradualism

            In formulating his theory of macroevolution, Darwin threw purpose, meaning, and intelligent agency overboard in order to embrace atheistic materialism within his proposed mechanism.  In my opinion, in so doing he made the huge miscalculation of relying upon gradualism as the ruling paradigm in nature…a reliance that cannot bear the weight of scientific fact-based evidence.

            In his 1996 book Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins offers a theoretical mechanism by which innovative features like the eye could be reached through entirely naturalistic processes. 

            Mount Improbable has one face that is a sheer vertical cliff, metaphorically representing the difficulty of reaching an innovative feature in one giant step.  Such marvels in nature as eyesight, winged flight, and upright bi-pedal walking cannot come into existence in large steps of anatomical progressions called saltations…being single leaps up the face of this cliff  equivalent to miracles.

            But there is a gradual uphill slope going up the other side of the mountain, which can be traversed to the top of the mountain through small incremental steps.  Thisis one of the fundamental axioms of Darwinian evolution…that the only plausible explanation for how a purely naturalistic process could work is through the use of infinitesimally small, random, undirected, and beneficially progressive accumulated steps.

            This is all well and good.  Except this hypothetical explanation in the book did not mention that if true this concept would require a near infinity of Mount Improbable scenarios in various stages of completion. 

            In addition to the example of eyesight, any snap-shot in time slicing through the natural living world would show these enumerable developing features in mid-ascent all traversing up the gradual slope sides of millions of Mount Improbable scenarios in progress.  This would be an obvious and a prolific reality visually apparent to everyone…scientist and layman alike.

            The number of innovative “creations” using this naturalistic model does not improve upon the difficult-to-swallow large number of individual creations by divine fiat of the tens of millions of living species by an intelligent designing agent God. 

            The difficult concept of God creating each individual species is one of the things Darwinism was in 1859 and still is today trying to replace with a purely materialistic mechanism. 

            Both a theistic and an atheistic mechanism must account for the numerical reality of the vast biodiversity of life and the large volume of beneficial physical features this entails.

            The gradualism central to Mount Improbable does nothing to simplify this reality, but merely chops the overall ascent up the mountain into smaller, random, and undirected steps.      

            In a talk given by Philip E. Johnson entitled Grand Metaphysical Story of Science,[1] on the Internet…Dr. Johnson…a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of the book Darwin On Trial…gives an account from the Richard Dawkins book The Blind Watchmaker, which describes again a hypothetical way by which an ancient prototype squirrel climbing in a tree could over time and many iterations morph into a flying bat having wings.  This is paraphrased here by me from Johnson’s talk.

            The general idea is that by adding progressive genetic mutations of the variant trait of larger and larger flaps of skin between the fingers of the prototype squirrel…this enables slower, more aerodynamic, non-lethal accidental falls from the branches of tall trees. 

            This innovative invention for survival could then eventually combine with other coordinating features that would over long periods of time create the capacity for winged flight, the flying bat immerging at the top of Mount Improbable as a completed functional new creature.  All this occurs through the ruling paradigm of progressive gradualism by naturalistic processes.

            The massive evidentiary problem here again is that this same fictionally imaginative methodology for explaining the vast diversity of life cannot be merely confined to a single example of the theoretical sequence of events that might transform a tree-climbing squirrel or small rodent into a flying bat.          

            These same types of hypothetical arguments must be extended-out to apply gradualism in action to every living organism on earth.  This would catch and record in our current snap-shot of time an unmistakably large number of these organisms in various stages of progressive development.

            Not only does the obvious question arise here of why a squirrel would “want” to morph slowly into a bat through a series of incremental steps, but also is this the true reality of the phenomena we see in the natural world?  Clearly, it is not.

            The squirrels I observe in the neighborhood where I live can nimbly run along the top of one-inch wide sections of five-foot high property-line plastic fence panels…without falling off.  These squirrels nimbly climb part-way to the top of 40 to 60 foot high palm trees planted along the city street sidewalk… using the claws on their hands and feet that capably grip the sides of the palm trees as they expertly climb upward to a safe height as I approach on foot.

            Squirrels carelessly falling-out of tall trees to their injury and death is not observationally an optimum choice as an illustrative hypothetical example of the motivating force for macro-biological change through mutation/selection.

            Of equal importance in the talks by Phillip E. Johnson accessible on the Internet, one of which is footnoted above, is the brilliant insight that merely chopping-up a larger problem into smaller pieces does not improve the positive probabilistic case for random chance.

            Dr. Johnson asks: Is it easier by chance to win one single lottery of one-million dollars…or to win separate lotteries of one-thousand dollars…one-thousand times?  Obviously, the chances of winning one-thousand separate lotteries of smaller dollar amounts is considerably improbable compared to the chances of winning one single lottery of a large dollar amount.

            Chopping-up a complex feature like eyesight into smaller incremental steps, gradually traversing up the gently sloping side of the theoretical Mount Improbable explanation for achieving the innovative marvels of nature, does not make the initial problem of achieving finalized function easier…but instead much more difficult. 

            If we take the vast biodiversity of the ten-million different living species on earth and chop-up each organism into their varied defining characteristics of architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits, and then throw into the mix the incredibly rich and varied ecosystems on earth…that this could all be the mindless product of enumerable Mount Improbable scenarios…is illogically nonsensical.

            As will be repeated over and over again in this book, if the pure naturalism of Darwinian macroevolution was true we should see some portions of the living world still “in-progress” in the major development of new architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits.  This universal momentum towards future end-points of finalized function in terms of survivability and enhanced reproduction would observably showcase today an incomplete and ongoing process still exhibiting macro changes.

            Genetic information has limiting boundaries.  This is why we cannot breed dogs through artificial selection to be as large as elephants, and why multitudes upon multitudes of complex living organisms universally appear to have reached their developmental end-points…”like producing like” year after year.

            The main point here again is that if gradualism is to be used as the ruling paradigm in all of the natural world…including the “evolution” of earth, our solar system, and the galaxies in the universe…as some Darwinists do today in defending scientific materialism…then the brand of universal gradualism that supports materialism must be visually obvious and noticeably prolific as fact-based evidentiary reality, recognized and accepted by everyone.

            A near infinity of Mount Improbable scenarios would be obvious in nature long before Charles Darwin came along with his book The Origin of Species.

            As I began in the 1970’s and 1980’s to think about the arguments for and against evolution…the counterintuitive idea struck me that if the macro half of Darwin’s theory was in fact true, then the natural world at the present time should be like looking from a distance at a growing city.  Several new skyscraper buildings of various heights would be under construction, all topped with cranes rising upward to reach definitive end-points that show the dynamic energy of progress moving towards some future as-yet unreached destination in time. 

            Over the following decades, in the books I read for and against Darwinian evolution, I saw that the rationale that scientific materialists gave for the lack of our ability to detect evolution in action in the present time, was that the infinitesimally small incremental steps of mutation/selection occurred so slowly as to not be discernable over a human lifespan.

            This always seemed to me to be a clever deflection that did not have the clear bell-ring of truth…an “evolution-of-the-gaps” that did not “hold water”…a futile attempt to explain-away the evidence until some future better explanation could be found.

            If gradualism plus chance is the ruling paradigm in the natural world, then no matter how slowly it was moving forward at any snap-shot in time, invariably there would still be enumerable life-forms caught mid-course in their development. 

            We do not have to possess a PhD in science to flatly see that the natural world does not display works-in-progress in mid-course, transitional change according to the mechanism of gradual progressive development.  We do not see this reality functioning anywhere as the singularly controlling, explanatory paradigm.

            If all we see today in the living and non-living natural world are a few examples of gradualism, of gradualism not being the ruling paradigm explanation for the development of all of natural phenomena, then the biological theory of macroevolution based upon atheistic materialism falls apart as a workable hypothesis.


[1] Grand Metaphysical Story of Science—Phillip E. Johnson…published on April 21, 2012, by Izzy Invasion.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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