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Ten Falsehoods and Misconceptions Peddled by "Answers in Genesis"

Nick Covington

1. Harvard Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould thought that transitional fossils were very rare

Here is the quote so often cited on AiG:

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology . . . [T]o preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.

The thing that creationists fail to understand is that Stephen J. Gould was referring to the absence of species-to-species transitional forms (which he explained via Punctuated Equilibrium, an explanation of which may be found here). Here are Gould's own words concerning this misunderstanding:

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.

2. Archaeopteryx was "Just a Bird"

A favorite tactic when AiG discusses this issue is to cite Evolutionary Biologist Alan Feduccia saying:

Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of "paleobabble" is going to change that.

I emailed Feduccia concerning this, and he responded via email as follows:

Hi, Ryan,Yes, of course this is preposterous. I was the person who coined the phrase in 1980 that, "Archaeopteryx is a Rosetta Stone of evolution!" Archaeopteryx is clearly transitory between reptiles and birds; the question is: what group of reptiles. The current dogma is that birds are directly derived from theropod dinosaurs, but there are numerous serious problems with this proposal, namely,
– the time line is all wrong.
– requires a ground-up origin of flight.
– many characters don't match, especially the digits.
– requires that all sophisticated flight architecture be evolved in an earth-bound, flightless dinosaur!!

At any rate count on the creationists to misquote people to foster their cause.

Best wishes,
Alan

(To learn more about Archaeopteryx, please visit All About Archaeopteryx.)

3. Mutations cannot produce "New" Information

This is false. Mutations can and do produce new information. Of course, AiG never really defines what they mean by "information," but the standard definition of "information" is "a code which represents data" (the code being DNA, the data being the proteins and traits it codes for). Following are some examples of mutations which have produced new traits and proteins:

Nylon Resistant Bacteria
Antifreeze proteins in cod fish
Sperm Gene in Fruit Flies
HIV Resistance gene and more

4. Red Blood cells were found in fossil T. Rex bones

No, they were not. Dr. Mary Schweitzer, the professional who made the discoveries that are cited by AiG says:

The fossil record can mimic many things, so without doing the chemistry to show that there are similarities to blood cells at the molecular level, I do not make any claims that they are cells.

Furthermore, the fact that astronomy, nuclear physics, evolutionary biology, and geology all point to an old earth means that we must be prepared to acknowledge that some biological material may last longer than was previously thought, not that it is evidence of a young earth (as Dr. Schweitzer says later on in the FAQ). Dr. Schweitzer has proposed a mechanism for this.

Finally, other scientists have proposed that what was found had nothing to do with dinosaur material, but was simply the remains of a "bacterial biofilm."

5. There are no true transitional fossils, only creatures with characteristics of different groups ('Chimeras'), and these can be explained by creationism

While it is true that no one can precisely identify any fossil as being the ancestor of any creatures today, Evolutionary theory predicts we should find fossils which look as if they are a transition between one group of animals and another. Creationism predicts precisely the opposite: According to Genesis 1:2, God created animals in distinct "kinds." We would therefore not expect to find anything with characteristics of both mammals and reptiles, or of reptiles as well as birds.

6. Homology is evidence of common design

If so, why did God design whales to swim by moving their tails vertically (a less efficient design) while designing fish to swim by moving their tails horizontally? As one will notice from watching sea otters swim, most mammals can swim only by fluctuating their bodies up and down. The fact that whales are mammals and that they swim this way—in spite of the fact that it is less efficient—is explained by whales having evolved from land mammals.

Arctic fish are yet another example of inconsistent design. North Arctic and South Arctic fish use quite different proteins to avoid freezing to death. This is precisely what we would expect from Evolution, because:

Premise 1: Fish on opposite ends of the earth cannot breed, and thus,

Premise 2: these proteins would have to evolve separately.

Premise 3: Often times there are many solutions to the same problem (e.g., Nylon-eating bacteria), and so it is unlikely that the same "solution" would evolve twice.

Premise 4: What was discovered fits perfectly with evolutionary theory, but is at odds with creationism.

7. "Were you there?"

No one has to witness an event to be able to make a reasonable inference about what happened. No creationist would vote a murderer innocent in the face of extensive forensic evidence and failure of a polygraph test just because no one else saw the murder committed.

8. Evolutionists assume stagnant conditions ("Uniformitarianism")

Geologists are aware that catastrophes happen, and they look for evidence of them. A recent study found that Britain became an island because of a megaflood some 200,000 years ago. You would not find something like that if you assumed only slow, steady processes for shaping geological and geographical features.

There is another paper that discusses the evidence of megafloods during the Holocene Epoch. (See this for a definition and information on the Holocene Epoch).

Geologists have been quite comfortable with the explanations that some events have been the accumulation of small changes, and others as the result of, at least, local catastrophes.

The creation science literature continues to use the term "uniformitarianism" only to refer to the notion of extreme gradualism. For example, they argue that since fossils are generally only formed when sediments accumulate very rapidly, that, therefore, there is evidence for catastrophe, and somehow that confutes uniformitarianism.

In fact, paleontologists do not deny that fossils that are preserved are generally buried by at least locally catastrophic events, storms or rapid accumulations of sediments. And indeed, that's why we believe the fossils record is so imperfect and most fossils never get a chance to be preserved, because the rate of sedimentation is usually slow and most fossils decay before they can be buried.

–Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, Testimony for the 'Arkansas Creation Trial'

9. Evolution has ties to racism and Social Darwinism

Yes it does, in the same way that Quantum Physics has ties with the claims of the Mystic Deepak Chopra. The fact is, however, that there is no way to justify killing other human beings because of natural selection. Natural Selection occurs by the best adapted leaving behind more offspring, not by brutal murder. In fact, as I have elsewhere argued, we should obey our instinct to be compassionate to others simply because it was favored by natural selection and obviously does have great benefits for those who practice it.

10. Creationists and Evolutionists have the same sets of evidence. We're just interpreting them differently

Interpretations of evidence can be proven wrong. For instance, when creationists assert that radiometric decay was once much faster, we can know this is not true simply because if it were the earth would have been fried to a crisp long ago!

To give another example, we can know that the geologic column was not created by a great flood because it shows signs of having been created over millions of years. (Varves are a great example of this.)

Finally, "Answers in Genesis" is being inconsistent by saying that there are many ways to interpret the physical evidence of the past but that there is only one plain meaning of the Bible. An evolutionist could likewise claim that the plainest, best, and only way to interpret such things as the hominid fossil sequence is through Common Descent.





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Published:
  2008-11-20

Categories:
  Evolution, Evolution vs. Creationism, Creationism

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