The Yada-Yada Theory of Origins

By Dmitri Smirenski
Reasons for Hope guest writer

At first it may appear odd that Seinfeld and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History have something in common. After all, one presents creative and imaginative works of fiction that inspire laughs, and the other was a hit TV show. However, as you will see in the paragraphs below, the key to their similarity is the 1997 Emmy-nominated Seinfeld episode, “The Yada Yada.” But first, let me start with a little Spring Break vacation.

On a trip to Washington DC with our oldest daughter, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the perfect museum weather and spend the grey and rainy day in the Museum of Natural History. What could possibly be more intriguing to a six-year-old than the wonderful displays of dinosaur skeletons, intricate crystals, and marine wild- life? Our first stop was the impressive IMAX theater, showing “Galapagos 3D”, an engaging film that follows the footsteps of Charles Darwin and showcases the tremendous bio-diversity of the Islands and their surrounding ocean habitats. As it introduces us to the enigmatic iguanas, the majestic tortoises and the quick finches with their varied beaks, the film continuously invokes evolution and how it resulted in this smorgasbord of natural wonders. Natural selection is presented as the main engine of evolution, which has produced, among other examples, the unusual ocean swimming abilities of the iguanas, the unique shapes of the tortoise shells, and the many beak designs of the finches, which Darwin sketched in his journals. Yet for skeptics and creationists, who readily acknowledge the existence of natural selection, the leap from changes in beak designs to changes in species is one that is awfully hard to make. After all, selection, by definition, is a process where a set of data with many variations is reduced, through environmentally-driven advantages, or rather disadvantages, to a smaller set of desirable characteristics. Information is removed, not added. How then, does the evolutionist explain the great leap from single-celled organisms to complex life forms; from birds to dinosaurs; from reptiles to mammals?

The last question, turns out, is one that Smithsonian is happy to answer. In a display conveniently located next to the overpriced museum cafeteria, it is explained (I paraphrase and quote in part) that the more “mammal-like” of the reptiles evolved into the mammals of today.


Photo by Shannon Dukes

The sheer audacity of that statement stopped me in my tracks. That is no small feat, since in our family it is my wonderful wife that is afflicted with what I call “plaquitis,” a condition that requires its victims to read every plaque that they see in a museum, no matter how insignificant, drastically slowing down the progress of those accompanying them. But I digress. What were these mammal-like reptiles that the museum is crediting with the eventual development of the human kind? What does it mean to be a mammal-like reptile? Were they hatched with superfluous nipples, or blessed with a faux fur covering? If those animals were so superior to the plain old non- mammal-like reptiles that preceded them, where are they now? The problem is not with the absence of a missing link—it is the absence of an entire chain!

As we continued meandering through the carefully laid-out exhibits, we came upon a display with a stuffed porcupine. Foregoing the typical questions of the porcupine courtship process, the museum chose, instead, to focus on the evolution of the porcupine’s quills. According to the plaque accompanying the display, porcupine quills evolved from fur as an effective defensive measure.


Photo by Shannon Dukes

I suppose at first glance this may make perfect sense. After all, quills are very useful in all seasons except for the breeding one, since they present a danger to anyone foolish enough to approach the animal. On the other hand, fur, a unique characteristic of mammals, is also extremely useful. It is known to insulate its wearer from temperature changes, keep out moisture, and provide an effective camouflage. But what value could there be in slightly, or even moderately quill-like fur, which would logically have to be an evolutionary step, and which would neither provide the insulating qualities of fur, nor the defensive qualities of quills? I could not find the answer to that question in the plaques around that exhibit, but an alarming, and yet oddly humorous pattern was beginning to emerge as I pondered this mystery.

The answer to explaining the giant leaps of evolution, taken in the supposedly small and un-preserved steps of natural selection, lay in the memorable lines from one of Seinfeld’s most famous episodes, “The Yada Yada.” In the episode, which took an old expression and launched it into the mainstream, George’s new girlfriend Marcy is admired for her succinctness by using “yada-yada-yada” to fill huge gaps in her stories, as in “So I’m on Third Avenue, mindin’ my own business, and, yada-yada-yada, I get a free massage and a facial.” George, who instantly falls in love with the phrase, decides to skip the unpleasant details of how he accidentally poisoned his fiancé to death with cheap envelopes by explaining: “Well, we were engaged to be married, uh, we bought the wedding invitations, and, uh, yada-yada-yada, I’m still single.” He is asked: how is she doing now? “Yada.”

In the Seinfeld-like episode that is the Theory of Evolution, scientists essentially resort to the same technique when explaining our origins, replacing “yada-yada” with phrases such as “over millions of years” and “mammal-like.” The fact is that they do not really know how long a particular process may have taken. They do not really know what steps may have existed. They cannot really present any direct evidence of these processes taking place in the past or the present, or that any particular animal is the actual predecessor of another. But they can yada-yada their way from reptiles to mammals and from hair to quills. Few scientific disciplines allow one to make the sweeping generalizations that permeate evolution, and fewer yet accept such far-flung premises without the presence of direct proof. Finding a fish that can crawl on a beach is not proof that it is the genetic ancestor of land-bound animals any more than a woman swimming in the ocean is proof of fish evolving from humans.

Back to Jerry’s apartment. Guided by suspicions that his girlfriend is cheating on him, George asks Elaine if she has ever yada-yada’d intimate relations. In this famous exchange, which perfectly demonstrates the cold-hearted immorality of these self- absorbed characters, Elaine provides an affirmative example:

Elaine: Yeah. I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada-yada-yada, I never heard from him again.

Jerry: But you yada-yada’d over the best part!Elaine: No, I mentioned the bisque.
Only this bunch of neurotic New Yorkers would call the details of a one-night stand “the best part,” but as I watch scientists make the great leaps from kingdom to kingdom, family to family, and species to species, I keep thinking that they yada-yada over the best part, replacing the lobster bisque with a primordial soup. After all, science is about the process. It is about looking at facts as they are—not as they might be. Much like the rules of evidentiary custody in a courtroom, science demands that its champions provide a clear, impartial and complete explanation of the hypothesis at hand, documenting every step in their investigation.
Imagine if Newton’s theory of gravity consisted of: “Well, there was an apple on the tree, and over a period of time it came to be on my head.” How did it get there? “Yada-yada.” Lucky for Newton, he was able to observe the falling of objects, much as biologists can observe cellular mitosis and the porcupines’ very careful courtship. Of course not all science is based on direct observation. Archaeologists and anthropologists can reconstruct the life and death of an ancient civilization from the traces it left behind, and astrophysicists can deduce the existence of unseen planets by stellar wobbles. Satisfied with the limited explanations of natural selection, however, evolutionary scientists simply yada-yada-yada their way through millions of years and many magnitudes of development with the ease of George and Elaine describing the previous evening. And I suspect they will continue to do so until other scientists stand up en masse and say: “But you yada-yada’d over the best part!” 
Carl Kerby

Carl Kerby is an inspiring, motivating and highly respected Christian speaker. With more than 20 years of ministry experience, Carl shares his extensive knowledge and understanding of God’s creation in his presentations, outreach events, books and other resources as the President and founding board member of Reasons for Hope, Inc.