Haldane’s Dilemma Shows Impossibility of Ape to Human Evolution

9 min readOct 21, 2015

The teacher stands in front of the classroom and says “You’re all descendants of apes. Humans and chimps are descended from a common apelike ancestor that lived several million years ago. Mutations to DNA, natural selection, more mutations, on and on and here you are! Oh, and by the way, there’s no spirit world. The material world is all there is and all there ever will be. When you die, the lights go out and all that you ever experienced; all of your learning and loving and thoughts and deeds will be annihilated. So you have no future! When this brief life is past, you’re done. You have no tomorrows!”

The above statement is a terse summation of the official public school sanctioned “religion” in the US. When I was a kid, it sounded plausible. I even became an atheist for a time. We know that mutations to DNA occur and every once in a while a mutation is advantageous. Such advantageous mutations are rare.

Remember, the Darwinists claim that evolution is a blind chance process without any intelligence driving it. This means you’re as likely to get a mutation that causes feathers to grow out of your ears or fangs growing out of your toes as you are to get a mutation for a slightly bigger brain. Even so, isn’t it reasonable to imagine that, given enough time, the accumulation of genetic mutations could change an ape into a human? It’s vaguely plausible until you do the math. An evolutionist named Haldane did the math and turned the evolution world upside down!

Haldane gave serious thought as to how a beneficial mutation that happens to one ape could eventually come to predominate in the gene pool of a whole population of apes, say 100,000 apes scattered across a continent. Geneticists call that genetic substitution. The mutation has to be substituted into the genome of every future ape or overwhelming majority of apes in the entire population for this one small step of evolution to occur for the species as a whole. The study of genetic substitution is called population genetics.

J.B.S. Haldane flipped the table over for evolutionists when he wrote a seminal article in 1957 that showed the mathematical impossibility of genetic substitution occurring at sufficient speed to turn apes into humans in 10 million years. Frankly, Haldane’s math clearly indicated the even a billion years wouldn’t be enough! Haldane caused a great dilemma for evolutionists through his writings. The controversy continues even to this day.

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892–1964), born to an aristocratic intellectual family of Scottish descent, was one of the leading evolutionists of his generation. A graduate of Oxford, he taught for many years at University College. London’s University College, established in 1826, was the first university in England founded on an entirely secular basis.

Haldane was one of the founders of the field of population genetics. Toward the end of his life he migrated to India, became an Indian citizen and taught at a leading university there. Haldane was also an atheist who embraced socialism and Marxism.

Haldane published a seminal paper in 1957 that was to shake up the field of evolutionary biology and reveal one of the fatal flaws of the theory of evolution. His paper was titled, “The Cost of Natural Selection.” In this paper, Haldane did the math on evolution. Haldane, not being a creationist, did his study as an ardent believer in evolution, yet still revealed a fatal flaw in the theory.

In the paper, Haldane worked from the following two premises:

1) Natural selection is a destructive process that eliminates the unfit.

2) Genetic mutations can be transmitted to the next generation only by the survivors.

A favorable genetic mutation is a mutation that occurs in one animal. That animal transmits its favorable mutation only by reproduction. It takes a very large number of generations for that mutation to predominate in a gene pool. Evolution is a theory dependant on the death of all those without the favorable genetic mutations. The death of the unfit is the cost of natural selection. Haldane calculated the cost of natural selection and found that evolution crumbled under the burdensome cost.

Haldane put numbers and probability calculations on ape populations allowing for favorable survivability rates for apes with beneficial genetic mutations. Evolution requires not only a very large number of rare favorable genetic mutations but also that each of these mutations be substituted into every future individual in the population. This substitution into the population requires a complete turnover of the gene pool in which only the apes with the new favorable mutations survive to comprise the new population.

Imagine an ape being born with a genetic mutation that gives it a slightly modified knee to help it walk slightly more erect. How many generations would it take for that one mutation to spread to an ape population of 100,000 apes scattered across a continent? The apes without the knee mutation have to die off and only the ones with the slightly better knee survive. That’s only one mutation and ape to human evolution requires millions of mutations.

Even if we modify Haldane’s numbers and bias them in favor of evolution and assume many favorable mutations and ideal conditions of survivability, we find that ten million years isn’t enough time.

Consider this quote from the article: Haldane’s Dilemma Has Not Been Solved” by Don Batten, Ph. D., Journal of Creation 19(1):20–21 April 2005:

“Imagine a population of 100,000 apes, the putative progenitors of humans. Suppose that a male and a female both received a mutation so beneficial that they out-survived everyone else; all the rest of the population died out — all 99,998 of them. And then the surviving pair had enough offspring to replenish the population in one generation. And this repeated every generation (every 20 years) for 10 million years, more than the supposed time since the last common ancestor of humans and apes. That would mean that 500,000 beneficial mutations could be added to the population (i.e., 10,000,000/20). Even with this completely unrealistic scenario, which maximizes evolutionary progress, only about 0.02% of the human genome could be generated. Considering that the difference between the DNA of a human and a chimp, our supposed closest living relative, is greater than 5%, evolution has an obvious problem in explaining the origin of the genetic information in a creature such as a human.”

The above quote gives fantastically favorable conditions for the transmittal of favorable mutations to each succeeding generation yet shows that only 500,000 favorable mutations could be substituted into the gene pool in ten million years. By the way, there are more than 50,000,000 genetic differences between humans and apes. Human DNA contains more than one billion nucleotide base pairs. There’s more than a 5% difference between humans and apes; 5% would be more than 50,000,000 base pairs affected.

The genetic differences involve differences in base pair sequence, number of base pairs in various genes, and types of base pairs, etc. Even the grossly exaggerated favorable conditions described in the above quote would give only a tiny fraction of the genetic changes needed to turn an ape into a human. Even allowing for multi-point mutations, the gap is still unbridgeable.

Using far more realistic numbers, Haldane calculated that only about 1,667 genetic mutations could be substituted into the gene pool of the human race in ten million years! Haldane gave a realistic and very pessimistic (for the evolutionist) number of substituted genetic changes in his calculations. Haldane’s numbers clearly show that ape to human evolution in ten million years is impossible. Remember the key is SUBSTITUTION! S-U-B-S-T-I-T-U-T-I-O-N of genetic mutations into the whole population must happen to give the species uphill evolutionary progress!

Haldane was not a creationist. He was an atheist evolutionist and yet he openly admitted that there was not enough time in ten million years. If you run his numbers on a longer time scale it’s obvious that even a billion years is not enough time to evolve apes into humans.

Haldane, mindful of the mind blowing ramifications, invited his evolutionist colleagues to counter or refute his findings. His article generated much discussion for a few years. Haldane’s dilemma could not be resolved in the secular, atheistic evolution context.

The concept of Haldane’s dilemma languished for decades as it was ignored by the frustrated and embarrassed evolutionists. Evolutionists moved on to hail the discovery of incomplete skeletons of Australopithenes in Africa. People seemed to assume that a beneficial mutation instantly changes the DNA in all of the individuals in a huge population. Of course, that is simply not the case. A genetic mutation affects the genes of one individual and all of the individuals without the mutation have to die off for the new favorable mutation to predominate in a population.

In the 1990s, creationists revived discussion of Haldane’s dilemma with the publication of a book by Walter ReMine, titled The Biotic Message which articulated Haldane’s Dilemma and updated it with more recent scientific findings in the field of genetics. This book brought on much needed discussion and analysis. Evolutionists wrote lengthy articles and bandied about terms such as “genetic drift” and “convergent evolution” but ultimately offered no credible rebuttal.

Now that both human and chimp DNA have been decoded it’s abundantly clear that human and ape DNA are more different than what evolutionists expected. The claim of 50,000,000 genetic differences in base pair sequence, base pair number, type of base pair, etc. is actually a conservative number. This fact deepens Haldane’s dilemma. Emperor evolution has no clothes!

Evolution has become the origins myth of our secular society. The teaching of evolution in the government run schools has caused multitudes of young people to reject God. Every society has a concept of purpose or meta-narrative that gives it a reason for being. The meta-narrative of traditional western civilization has been Christianity. Now that Christianity has been largely banished from education and evolution installed in its place, western civilization has gone into a death spiral of drugs, abortion, crime and suicide. The birth rate has fallen far below replacement level and in some western countries the birth rate is around half of replacement level. Children who are taught that they are soul-less descendants of apes grow up to act like animals!

The west thrived and expanded when Christianity was its civil religion. Christianity is, however, much more than just a civil religion. It is precious truth. Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 messianic prophecies written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth. Additionally, Jesus worked miracles before eyewitnesses that proved He is the promised Messiah of Israel. He came to live a perfect life and then suffer and die, taking upon Himself the punishment due to us because of our sins. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!

My source for much of the information in this article is Haldane’s Dilemma Has Not Been Solved” by Don Batten, Ph. D., Journal of Creation 19(1):20–21 April 2005.

Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7)
1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
2) Believe that Jesus the Messiah came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you and take upon Himself the penalty of your sins. (Isaiah 53:5–6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18)
3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness. (Romans 10:13)
4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth. (John 1:12, Acts 2:38)
5) Follow Him as Lord. (John 14:21)

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13)
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for you at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on your behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer: “Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

Bill Nugent, Overcomer Ministries of Fort Mill, SC, USA www.gracelawandsonship.com

(C) 2015 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish (including link) for Christian outreach.


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Bill Nugent, award winning author, writes on evolution, UFOs, postmodern philosophy and current events from a Christian perspective.