The Circularity of Evolutionary Trees

Ecclesiastes 10:3
“Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.”

During the November 5th podcast of Stand to Reason, Greg Koukl made a profound observation regarding the construction of Evolutionary Trees. (The above picture is an example.) He pointed out to a caller that such are created upon assumption. Meaning, the authors of such are merely attempting to “pass on information as they understand it”. But, is their understanding sound? Just because there exists simple life forms and more complex life forms, it doesn’t necessarily follow that complex life forms are the result of simple life forms.

Here’s Greg:

“Just because you have ancient hominid creatures (that is, monkey type creatures: hominids), that seem to be less developed than we are, it does not mean that we developed from them. If you are convinced that evolution, Darwinian Evolution, is an accurate description of the development of all biological species, well then it makes sense to line up these things, so that the simple is before the more complex… on the same line. But, I just want to point out that when they line these things up like that, they are lining these up in virtue of their conviction regarding evolution. So, it becomes questionable whether the chart itself can be used an example of evolution, or evidence for evolution, when it was the conviction of evolution that created the chart to begin with.”

Did you catch that? All that these charts do is outline the evolutionist’s conviction. It does not verify their theoretical construct.

Greg goes on:

“This is boarder line circularity… And it might be that you can’t entirely avoid this, given this enterprise, because you have to adopt a paradigm, an explanatory paradigm and then try to fit the evidence in… where you think it fits. But, one has to be very careful to avoid the circularity.”

Greg sums up his point:

“Making the chart based on the conviction, and then using the chart as evidence for the conviction. That’s the concern I am raising here. Because, I think this happens a lot. And the problem that they’re faced with, and it’s a real problem (it’s just the nature of the thing), it’s called ‘the problem of deep time’. And this is a problem whenever you are identifying anything that looks like a so-called ‘transitional form’. How do you know, given the large gaps in time, between these so-called ‘transitional forms’, that one is truly an ancestor of another? The reason you presume it is because of the conviction of evolution to begin with. And so, the paradigm has got to drive the interpretation of that evidence in some profound degree. Do you see what I’m saying? ‘It must go here, because it’s less developed and looks like this other thing, but it seems less developed so we’ll put it here. And… THERE IT IS! CLEAR AS DAY!’ Yeah, but you constructed this based on your conviction.”

Paul offers a warning to the Colossians, to watch out for the attempts to warp and influence the proper view of reality:

Colossians 2:8
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Greg was cordial at the end, and he offers a great example as to how we should approach these things with an attitude of grace:

“This shows that maybe the assumption is not justified. There’s a lot of, I don’t want to say ‘smoke and mirrors’ so much, because it sounds like people are disingenuous and trying to trick you. But, there’s a lot of questionable things going on in that whole enterprise, and it’s being held by the power of the paradigm, in my view.”

1 Thessalonians 5:6
“So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!



  1. This my argument also — just because things are similar, or there are a range from simple to more complex, doesn’t mean they descended from each other. It’s the theory of evolution, the framework that they work in, that influences the way they interpret the data.


  2. This would make sense if that’s all we had. There is also evidence from biogeography and HUGE amount from Genetics like similar DNA sequences, chromosome 2 fusion, Vitamin C pseudogene, ERVs, Junk DNA. You can posit that all this, including the fossils, can count as evidence for common desgin but then you need to come up with a testable scientific hypothesis for that. So far there hasn’t been anything. God “poofing” everything into existence is not science.


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