WHY I BELIEVE IN CREATION
I said to myself concerning the sons of men, God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath [Gen. 6:17; 7:15, 22] and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust [Gen. 3:19]. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?
Thus the Bible makes a grand and poetic testimonial to human evolution. Why bring this up? Because despite its title, this chapter concerns itself with evolution and cosmology, not creation. Dr. Kennedy advances no support, no evidence beyond circular references to the Bible, to show a skeptic why one should believe in creation; instead he writes at length on why he thinks evolution theory is flawed. And in doing so, he badly misrepresents (or misunderstands) basic facts.
For the most part, the arguments he uses come from those Christians who call themselves "creation scientists" like Henry Morris and Duane Gish, both of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). This organization is well-known (and well-documented) for publishing books and pamphlets of propaganda rife with factual errors, distortions, misquotations, and plain bad science. They do not represent the views of most Christians interested in considering science and all its evidence seriously. In this commentary, when I use the term "creationist" I do not mean to generalize about all Christians, but refer instead only to those of the ICR and their ilk.
Evolution and origin theories encompass such a vast body of knowledge, spanning anatomy, animal behavior, astronomy, biology, chemistry, cosmology, ecology, genetics, geology, history, paleontology, and physics, that one person cannot adequately grasp all the evidence. Creationists often don’t grasp it, nor do they want to, nor do they need expertise in these fields to retain their faith; but anyone trying to address creationist claims must first learn essentially all of science!
For the previous chapters, my commentary explored some of the author’s chosen topics in more detail, and also delved into areas he chose not to touch. This chapter cries out for a different approach. Below, the chapter is quoted with a K> symbol. It’s a good springboard for exploring many issues in science and philosophy. When necessary, I will interrupt and add my commentary. This article is rather lengthy. If you want a concise summary of some basic misunderstandings about evolution, see the Appendix to this chapter commentary ("Five Major Misconceptions About Evolution" by Mark Isaak, from usenet’s talk.origins archives). See also the appendix to Douglas Futuyma’s book Science on Trial, which lists brief capsule responses to many more creationist arguments.
The chapter begins:
K> We live in a time when there are only two religions competing for the minds, hearts and loyalties of intelligent Western Man. The future of this world will be determined, humanly speaking, by intelligent Western Man.
Those are rather broad and culturally prejudiced assumptions. To what time-frame of "the future" does he refer? How does he define Western Man? Certainly the United States and Western Europe hold the balance of economic power at the moment, but this power could conceivably shift to Asia. Note that Russian criminals deciding whether to sell nuclear bombs to Islamic fundamentalists can also determine the future of this world.
K> One of those religions is Christianity; the other religion is evolution. Anyone who does not realize that evolution is a religion does not know much about evolution.
True to creationist form, here Dr. Kennedy offers up a classic logical fallacy of unwarranted assumption, a standard debating technique practiced by some Christian fundamentalists. This fallacy is called bifurcation, or false dilemma, or false dichotomy. In an extreme form of the argument, whatever is not Christianity must be Paganism (reference: the public-access cable TV series Pagan Invasion). Round-earth-ism or gravitation-ism would be "religions" by Kennedy’s standards. By lumping together all religions that don’t live up to his ideals, this variety of argument makes one wonder if he really can’t tell the difference between Mormonism and Hinduism (both religions are supposedly based on "evolution" although both existed before Darwin, so the usage of the word in that context is at least misleading if not entirely deceitful). There’s another major "religion" making great inroads in Western societies – the New Age movement. Besides that, Hinduism, Buddhism, and especially Islam are all growing among Western societies. I’m surprised he can’t tell them apart.
Furthermore, he errs with respect to taking Christianity as one big lump, by falsely dichotomizing creation versus evolution in claiming that no Christian can honestly accept evolution. Millions of Christians reject the notion that evolution is anti-Christian. The Papal Academy of Science, in the 1960s, claimed "evolution is a fact beyond all reasonable dispute," although they had questions about the evolution of humans and of how life originally started. On June 28, 1982, the 194th General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA adopted a resolution accepting evolution. On September 14 of the same year, the 67th General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted a similar resolution. See also "Scholar opposes `biblical biology’" in the National Catholic Reporter, March 13, 1981, or "Cardinal urges accord of science and religion" in the New York Times, September 29, 1981. For further information, see Is God a Creationist? by Roland Frye.
Many Christians accept theistic evolution, not because they’ve been brainwashed, but because they simply don’t find it a problem. For example, Charles D. Walcott, who discovered the Burgess Shale fossils, was a convinced Darwinian and an equally firm Christian. He believed that God had ordained natural selection to create a history of life according to His plans and purposes. My own observations indicate that those Christians who reject the evolution concept are mostly evangelical Christians. These constitute only one-third of Christian Americans, according to the "State of the Union" demographic survey in Time (January 30, 1995, p. 72).
If a Christian happens also to accept the current scientific understanding of evolution, then to strict fundamentalists they’re not True Christians. But if a Christian is one who follows Christ, and an "evolutionist" is one who accepts the current state of scientific understanding as generally accurate, in what way are these concepts incompatible? It is true that Paul warned against "human tradition and the basic principles of the world" (Colossians 2:8), but his own argument suffers from the fact that Paul himself was human and just as fallible as the rest of us. Jesus, on the other hand, said "do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). By judging as non-Christian all who accept evolution, Kennedy contradicts his own belief system.
When Dr. Kennedy refers to "competing for the minds, hearts and loyalties" he misunderstands the nature of science. Loyalty is not a demand of science. Without realizing it, he makes it obvious in this chapter that anyone who thinks evolution is a religion knows nothing about evolution.
K> It is a religion that is passionately held to by its devotees.
No religion or passion is required. The vast body of evidence for evolution comes from more scientific disciplines than any one human could possibly master. The degree of coherent integration of this body of evidence is overwhelming compared to the sparse, selective evidence used in support of the creation hypothesis.
The controversy has roots in one primary difference between creationist and scientific thinking. Creationists have a Bible that gives them an unchanging set of data. They implicitly assume that science also has a fixed, immutable set of evidence. Few creationists understand, at more than a surface level, that science is a process, not a conclusion, and that evidence continues to come in all the time. Scientific theories are revised as new facts come to light.
Just because something conflicts with a person’s beliefs, that does not automatically make it a religion. By inventing a religion to represent a large body of science, Kennedy shows he doesn’t even know what science is, or even what constitutes a scientific theory. This is important. Let’s review a definition of science, and how it relates to evolution and creationism.
Scientific theories must be falsifiable: one must be able to conceive of ways to prove them wrong. Evidence that weakened some evolution models, like Gradualism, have given rise to others such as Punctuated Equilibrium. And of course, many scientific theories would be neatly falsified by any clear, unambiguous, unquestionable, repeated instances of an observed divine miracle having no scientific explanation. But nothing so grand is needed to falsify evolution. Evolution models would be falsified if, say, just one insect fossil was found in Precambrian rock. Creationism cannot claim this criterion of falsifiability; one cannot even conceive of evidence that could overturn the creationist model. Furthermore, evolution science is predictive: it makes predictions about what we can expect to observe. Creationism has no predictive power, at least none that can be verified or disproved.
By the common definition of science, creationism does not qualify. Let’s look at the identifying fingerprints of a "good" scientific theory (from Casti, p. 460) and compare them with creationism:
- Consistency – Good theories contain no self-contradictory statements. A good theory of genetics involves no situations where identical genotypes result in radically different phenotypes. The Biblical creation story, on the other hand, contains two contradictory accounts concerning the order in which things were created, and fails to explain physical contradictions such as days with no sun.
- Non-circular – Good theories contain no circular arguments. By contrast, many creationists often point to the Bible to support notions which originated there.
- Cumulative – Good theories explain all the phenomena that older theories explain, but add something new. For example, Einstein’s special relativity contains all the predictions of Newton’s laws of motion, but extends Newton’s work to include special cases at near-lightspeed velocities. In a similar fashion Punctuated Equilibrium explains fossil record observations better than Gradualism, and Natural Selection explains speciation better than its predecessor, Lamarckism. By contrast, creationism holds fast to a fixed and unchanging hypothesis.
- Testable – The claims or predictions of good theories must be testable by experiment. Thus, we can make predictions about environmental effects on speciation, or about what we might find in the fossil record, and then observe the evidence that either supports or falsifies the theory. Creationism does make both testable and untestable claims; however, those few claims which are testable (like evidence for the Biblical flood) have been falsified. All that remains are untestable, unfalsifiable claims. Falsifiability is the line of demarcation between scientific and non-scientific theories; the absence of this quality prohibits labelling the theories of astrology, Marxism, and creationism as "scientific."
There are other criteria as well: Most good theories provide insight into issues not addressed by older theories; most good theories generate new questions as well answer old ones; good theories propose the simplest models that agree with observations. This last criterion, known as the Occam’s Razor principle, asserts roughly that one should not multiply hypotheses beyond what one needs to explain observations. Creationism violates this principle by postulating unnecessarily the existence of a supernatural creator, which begs the question of who or what created the creator.
I would ask creationists like Dr. Kennedy to come up with a clear picture of what science is. If it does not match the description above, then he has mistaken science for something else.
Kennedy doesn’t actually claim that creationism is science. However, his arguments are identical to those of the ICR and other creationists who do make this claim in order to endow creationism with an air of legitimacy for teaching it in science classes. For the record, I think creationism should be taught in public school, with equal time given to the myths of all religions. But not in science class. What kind of science is creationism? More on this later.
K> Listen to what some well-known evolutionists, all highly placed scientists in the world, have to say. Professor Louis T. More, one of the most vocal evolutionists: "The more one studies paleontology [the fossil record], the more certain one becomes that evolution is based on faith alone." (Louis T. More, The Dogma of Evolution, Princeton University Press, 1925, p. 160)
Quoting a little-known source from 1925 really fails to make a point. A lot has changed in the last 70 years, especially in new fossil record discoveries. Thousands of transitional fossils have been discovered, closing many gaps in the fossil record. This is particularly amazing considering we probably haven’t unearthed more than 0.1% of the Earth’s fossils. Again, Dr. Kennedy implies falsely that science is stagnant (but then, he also tries to paint evolution as a religion, which would make it stagnant).
In addition, we have plenty of other evidence besides that from paleontology. Much of this evidence, such as geological distribution, was even known to Darwin, but other evidence has only recently come within the reach of our technology to discover. Molecular biology provides some good examples, for instance, the similarities in DNA of related organisms, or quantitative variations in cytochrome-C proteins that confirm genealogical relationships. Creationists tend to focus on paleontology in part because Darwin saw the imperfect geological record as a weakness in his theory – he devoted a full chapter to it. For an example of the DNA hybridization technique, see Sibley and Ahlquist, "Reconstructing Bird Phylogeny by Comparing DNAs," Scientific American, February 1986. I’ll write briefly on molecular biology later. Some other molecular evidence is briefly summarized in "Molecular Evidence for Evolution" by Thomas H. Jukes, in the book Scientists Confront Creationism. The point here is that, 70 years after More made his statement, paleontology is far from the only source of evidence for evolution.
K> Professor D. M. S. Watson, a famous evolutionist,
Not anymore. Why does Kennedy quote obscure professors and call them "well-known" or "famous"? Famous evolutionists would include people like Darwin, Huxley, Gould, Eldredge, Mayr, Simpson, Johanson, Leakey, Sagan, and Asimov, but not Louis T. More or D. M. S. Watson. The fact that Kennedy picked these obscure authors reveals that he either knows nothing at all about the subject or that he deliberately misrepresents it.
Perhaps he confused D. M. S. Watson with James D. Watson, author of The Double Helix and co-discoverer of the DNA code.
K> made the remarkable observation that evolution itself is a theory universally accepted, "not because it has been observed to occur or can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but only because the alternative – special creation – is clearly incredible." (Quoted in Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism, Creation-Life Publishers, 1974, p. 8)
In researching this chapter, I discovered that many creationists are notorious for quoting scientists out of context, or even misquoting them. Dr. Kennedy provides us with an exquisite example here, using a misquotation from Morris, who effectively puts words into Watson’s mouth! This same misquotation also appears in Duane Gish’s Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record. In reading creationist publications, you can’t help but notice that they recycle each other’s unreliable quotations for rhetorical purposes. Quotes of this nature have little if any scientific value. Gish even leaves out the author’s initials, so you might logically assume James D. Watson rather than D. M. S. Watson.
D. M. S. Watson never even mentions special creation, nor does he say that evolution is unsupported. Let’s look at the original quote (Watson, p. 231, emphasis mine):
Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.
Quite a difference! What can Kennedy or Morris possibly hope to gain by lying about scientists’ statements? Such dishonesty only makes creationists look like slippery charlatans. Is it any wonder, then, that the scientific and educational communities do not take them seriously?
Dr. Kennedy also neglects to mention the date this was written: 1929, when only the two theories of Darwin and Lamarck had gained currency. Watson says toward the end of the article, "We know as surely as ever that evolution has occurred; but we do not know how this evolution was brought about." (Watson, p. 234) Thanks to progress, now we have other fields of science, like genetics and molecular biology, to add new factual observations, and more detailed and refined theories encompassing a wide variety of disciplines, to explain evolution’s mechanisms.
In any case, nothing in science can be "proved" by the standards described by Kennedy’s misquotation. Proof is a concept not applicable to science, except in mathematics. And yes, evolution has been observed, and there exists a logically coherent body of evidence supporting it. And "special creation" is not the only alternative, or even the only brand of creationism. If Dr. Kennedy wishes to set up a creation/evolution dichotomy, it is misleading to use the claim that evolution contradicts special creation as any kind of argument against evolution.
Besides differing Christian interpretations, what alternatives are there? Alien intervention is one example, others are the creation concepts of Hinduism or the Navajo Indians. Alternative scientific-based origin theories include the "molecular genome" theory which proposes that all life forms had not one origin, but each had a different origin. Another example is the "two source cosmogony" whopper that Horselover Fat lays forth in Philip K. Dick’s novel Valis – it is certainly no less believable than other myths.
Leaving aside for now that the use of the term "special creation" confuses evolution with abiogenesis (origin-of-life) theories unrelated to evolution, let’s look at a small sample of logically coherent argument concerning abiogenesis.
Back in 1953, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago published what is now known as the Miller-Urey experiment. It showed that most organic acids (the building blocks of RNA) could be produced in an atmosphere similar to that believed to exist in the early Earth. This created a stir at the time, and the experiment made the "best of the year" list in Nature, Science, Scientific American, etc. It has also been shown that RNA molecules can be made to replicate in a test tube, and evolve, with the help of suitable enzymes and nucleotides (Cairns-Smith, Seven Clues, p. 55).
More recently, British chemist A. Graham Cairns-Smith determined that life needs two things to come into existence: a cell membrane and an RNA base. Any introductory biochemistry textbook (for example, by Lehringer) explains how micelles form spontaneously by electrostatic interactions with water molecules (essentially, get some molecules that are polar on one side and non-polar on the other and you get membranous bubbles), so the cell membrane is easy to come by. Micelles form from compounds like soap, waxes, DMPC, DMSO, and others. He also proposes, that since RNA was an original component of clay, that life arose from clay (Cairns-Smith, Genetic Takeover).
So, given a source for a cell membrane and a source for RNA, formation of a primitive cell doesn’t seem so inconceivable. For a good book at the popular level, available from both mainstream and creationist booksellers, look at Origins by Robert Shapiro, which critically examines a number of viewpoints, both scientific and creationist.
That bit about clay leads to an interesting allegorical interpretation of the creation of Adam in Genesis. Possibly the Bible, if interpreted properly, can be reconciled with scientific theories of origins after all.
K> To the reprobate mind, the unregenerate mind, creation is incredible because it requires belief in a creator, and that is totally unacceptable to such men as these.
The implication is that they are wrong by virtue of their knowledge conflicting with Kennedy’s beliefs. In arguing for why one should believe his religion (the subject of the book as a whole), Kennedy cannot assume the truth of his religion to begin with. Circulus in demonstrando.
The words "reprobate" and "unregenerate" indicate that Kennedy associates evolution with immorality. He doesn’t expand on this line of thinking this chapter. Suffice it to say for now science makes no moral value judgments, and the philosophical and ethical implications of evolution have nothing to do with its scientific validity. Chemistry, for example, is responsible for many deaths each year, but that doesn’t mean we should reject its findings. I should add that morality exists independently of any god, and the absence of a god does not signify moral decay (at least among people I know). Civil evils are more highly correlated with ignorance and provincialism.
He also ignores the idea of divinely-guided evolution and the many people who accept it. Many Christian churches accept the Bible’s creation story as metaphoric truth, reflecting the state of science at the time it was written. Also, all the world’s religions have their own creation myths, full of startling and delightful parallels, contradictions and insights. Kennedy never gives us any reason why we should favor his particular myth over another.
K> A famous British evolutionist, Sir Arthur Keith, is just as frank in his admission. He says, "Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable." (quoted in Fred John Meldan, Why We Believe in Creation Not in Evolution, Christian Victory Publishing, 1959, p. 27)
That quote was not true even in 1959 when it appeared in Meldan’s book. The facts that mosquitoes are no longer bothered by DDT or many diseases are not stopped by antibiotics support evolution theories. For that matter, anybody who claims that evolution is impossible probably speaks from before the discovery of DNA and genes. Dr. Kennedy gives us more second-hand sources from obscure publishers. It’s not a good sign, and we can expect more of the same later in the chapter.
Sir Arthur Keith, by the way, was fooled by the Piltdown Man forgery, so it’s probably no coincidence that Meldan (and Kennedy) chose to quote him in particular. Just before the actual quote, did you notice the deceptive use of the present tense to give Keith’s words the appearance of contemporary thought? Keith died in 1955.
K> What would happen if I were to stand up before my congregation and say, "My friends, Christianity is unproved and unprovable, but you still ought to believe it"?
One can easily argue that Christianity is unprovable. Belief is a matter of faith. Even if you had direct evidence of actions violating every known physical law (which would require throwing out or re-thinking a lot of science), this no more proves Christianity than it does the power of Zeus.
K> They would get up and walk out, and rightly so. But that is the way men accept evolution.
No, that is the way people accept Christianity. Here Dr. Kennedy displays an incredible lack of understanding of the scientific method as a means of seeking truth. Nothing in science is ever "proved." If a prediction fails, the model it’s based on has been falsified and must be abandoned or re-thought; if a model passes a crucial test, it is not validated but only "corroborated" and the process of testing must go on. Evidence corroborating evolution theories continues to accumulate, but no evolution theory will ever be "proved." Theories that have survived extensive scrutiny, or make many new predictions which are confirmed, or explain observations more completely, are not proven, but rather "accepted" by scientists as true.
K> Professor David Allbrook, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Western Australia, says that evolution is "a time-honored scientific tenet of faith." (Quoted in Meldan, p. 8).
Another appeal to authority using an obscure professor. Should we be convinced merely from reading someone’s opinion?
K> A great many people have been led to believe it was a fact, but it is not so. Dr. Duane Gish, noted biologist,
Gish may be "noted" and a "biologist" but that doesn’t make him a "noted biologist." In scientific circles, Gish is "noted" (and also well-documented, along with Morris and McDowell, with many examples – such as misquoting Watson) for being one of the most intellectually dishonest "creation scientists" ever to draw breath. Strictly speaking, having a PhD in biochemistry doesn’t in itself make him a biologist, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is one. On the other hand, the following quote is typical of his "understanding" of biochemistry: "Is it surprising that the biochemistry (life chemistry or metabolism) of the human is very similar to that of a rat? After all, don’t we eat the same food, drink the same water, and breathe the same air?" (Gish, p. 253) Gish is primarily a debater and propagandist. Kennedy does not enhance the credibility of this chapter by quoting him.
K> says, "Evolution is a fairy tale for adults." I believe that is exactly what it is. In Grimms’ Fairy Tales someone kisses a frog and in two seconds it becomes a prince. That is a fairy tale. In evolution, someone kisses a frog and in two million years, it becomes a prince.
A direct paraphrase of Gish, who, however gave the slightly more realistic number of "300 million years" for the time it takes a frog to evolve into a prince (Gish, p. 15). This is simply rubbish. Frogs do not "become" hominids because of some outside intervention, much less in few million years; Kennedy demonstrates his lack of understanding of evolution by bringing up an analogy so badly flawed. Analogies don’t have to be exact to have value, but they shouldn’t be outright false either.
A common misconception, which spans from lay-thinking creationists to Star Trek, is that evolution affects things directly. Every human is different. Some of these differences affect our ability to reproduce. Some are good only in certain circumstances. For example, diabetics live longer and healthier than non-diabetics in those parts of the world where food might only appear once every two or three days. In our part of the world, the normal diet of three meals per day overloads their systems so much that they need insulin treatments.
K> That is science. It is simply faith.
Ah. Now Science equals Faith. Apparently unable or unwilling to provide a scientific basis for creationism, Kennedy attempts to drag science down to his level, again displaying his profound ignorance of what science is. His confusion is understandable, though. Interestingly, surface similarities do exist between the practices of religion and science. John L. Casti wrote in Alternate Realities (p. 478):
Let’s take mathematics as an example. Here we have a field that emphasizes detachment from worldly objects, a secret language comprehensible only to the initiates, a lengthy period of preparation for the "priesthood," holy missions (famous unsolved problems) to which members of the faith devote their entire lives, a rigid and somewhat arbitrary code to which all practitioners swear their allegiance, and so on. These features . . . bear a striking similarity to the surface appearances of many religions.
So, science and religion might appear similar on the surface. Obviously Dr. Kennedy made such an observation. However, anyone who looks more closely can see that the areas of difference are deeper and more significant:
- Language – The language of science concerns prediction and controls. The language of religion concerns expressions of commitment, ethical dedication, and philosophies of existence. The semantic content of scientific and religious languages are completely different.
- Reality – Science is directed toward discovering reality. In contrast, religion presupposes the nature of reality. Science embodies a basic belief in the comprehensibility of the universe. This belief is not shared by many religions.
- Models – Both religious and scientific models are used to organize images for interpreting life experiences. But the religious model says, basically, "live by these rules think this way and you’ll see that it works." This rigid faith-based philosophy clearly contrasts with science.
- Paradigms – Scientific paradigms are subject to constraints, such as simplicity (Occam’s Razor), falsification, and influence of theory on observation. These features do not exist in religious paradigms.
- Methods – Observation, hypothesis, and experiment characterize the scientific method. Religion’s method involves divine enlightenment. The religious method is not repeatable, nor is it available to every investigator.
Equating science with religious faith cannot be justified. The approaches used by each are completely inverted. Science takes empirical evidence and modifies the assumptions (hypotheses) to fit the evidence. Religion takes empirical evidence and re-interprets or disregards the evidence to fit an assumption that might be thousands of years out of date. If science worked like religion, water wouldn’t be H2O, it would simply be water, one of the Four Elements (fire, water, earth, and air), and wood would consist of earth and fire.
Scientists admit there are things we don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean we should all give up, throw up our hands, and take refuge in "intelligent design" as explanation. Religion has a meaningful purpose as it is; it should not be substituted for science. History shows that scientific interpretations of unexplained phenomena are eventually discovered, and there’s no reason why this process shouldn’t continue.
The differences between science and religion do not mean, of course, that science has anything to do with atheism (as Kennedy believes). Science does not deny God. As far as science is concerned, regardless of whether God exists or not, it is unnecessary to consider God, or even faith, in attempting to define the causes of various phenomena. Science does not address the question of the existence of supernatural deities. Science is accessible to anyone regardless of their religion or lack of it.
K> Robert T. Clark and James D. Bales wrote an interesting and heavily documented book entitled Why Scientists Accept Evolution. It contains numerous letters written by Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, and other early evolutionists. It points out that these men indicated in their letters, by their own admission, that because of their hostility toward God and their bias against the supernatural, they jumped at the doctrine of evolution. (Robert T. Clark and James D. Bales, Why Scientists Accept Evolution, Baker Book House, 1966)
The authors of that book are themselves creationists who also demonstrate their unfortunate ignorance of science by taking the familiar and wrong "evolution equals faith" position, and harping on evolution not being "proved." I question the context of some quotations they use, also. But more importantly, Dr. Kennedy misrepresents this book!
The book describes Darwin as wanting to become a clergyman in college, then becoming more uncertain about God as he aged. The authors state (p. 37), "Darwin never became an atheist," and although Darwin may have developed prejudice, he "believed that evolution was compatible with faith in God." (p. 44) Huxley was agnostic; although he had anti-supernatural leanings, "Huxley did not think that there were any a priori arguments against God, nor did he contend that evolution had undermined every type of argument from design of the existence of God." (p. 75) Spencer was also agnostic, and biased against creation, but he recognized that evolution was independent of his ontological views (pp. 60-61). Kennedy reaches at straws to consider these attitudes as "hostility." How can anyone trust what he says about evolution when he misrepresents literature from his own camp?
In any case, what bearing can old letters, which most scientists have probably never seen, have on the reasons for scientists accepting evolution today? This is more sleight-of-hand on Dr. Kennedy’s part. He wants to distract the reader’s attention away from the physical evidence that actually led people like Darwin and Huxley to argue for the idea of evolution in the first place. Remember this: In science, it is arguments that ultimately count, not personal views.
More than a century ago, some of the early evolution proponents also happened to be non-Christian. So what? Were there no religious men among them (not that it should matter)? The chapter doesn’t even address why biologists and paleontologists today accept evolution, except to dismiss it by claiming science is faith.
Yes, at one time, evolution did require faith that physical characteristics were transmitted from parent to offspring. When genes and DNA were discovered, the need for this faith evaporated. Anything written by early evolutionists along this line is of no more relevance to the current status of evolution than their views on astrology.
K> Sir Julian Huxley, one of the world’s leading evolutionists, head of UNESCO, descendant of Thomas Huxley – Darwin’s bulldog – said on a talk show, "I suppose the reason we leaped at The Origin of Species was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores." (Henry M. Morris, The Troubled Waters of Evolution, Creation-Life Publishers, 1974, p. 58)
I was unable to find this anywhere in Morris’s book. Kennedy’s citation is incorrect, so this quote is impossible to check. Did he make it up? Assuming he didn’t, what’s the context? Who’s "we"? That statement has a definite twang of sarcasm or jest in it. Given that the quote supposedly comes from Morris, whose books reek of dishonesty, as school boards have found in reviewing five of them (Hughes, pp. 93-111), and given Morris’s previous misquotation of Watson, I wouldn’t be surprised if Huxley was taken out of context here. As I have observed, this tactic appears to be a favorite among creationists, especially with Darwin quotes – see for example, The Collapse of Evolution, where author Scott M. Huse "shows" (p. 73) how Darwin supports creation by excising significant portions of Darwin’s words on the human eye; naturally this example gets recycled elsewhere in other creationist writings.
K> Probably the most prevalent reason the average layman believes in evolution – if he does – is that he is told that all scientists believe it. However, a recent newspaper article indicated that one group of over five hundred scientists disbelieved it completely, in every single facet.
Dr. Kennedy provides no reference for this factoid; he might as well have invented it. What kind of newspaper? What is "recent"? What was the context of the article? I imagine he refers to the Creation Research Society, whose members numbered about 600 in 1991 (Gish, p. 20). I can’t think of another group of over 500 scientists who would reject evolution "completely, in every single facet."
K> One of the world’s leading scientists, Sir Cecil Wakely, whose credentials are rather impressive – K.B.E., C.B., LL.D., M.CH., Doctor of Science, F.R.C.S., past president of Royal College of Surgeons of Great Britain –
More appeal to authority. Let’s look at some of those credentials, with which Kennedy relies on the reader’s unfamiliarity in order to sound impressive: K.B.E. (Knight Commander of the British Empire) – irrelevant. LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) – irrelevant. F.R.C.S. (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) – not necessarily relevant. Some others can’t be found in Webster’s unabridged dictionary. Sir Cecil Wakely has all those impressive letters, but as the example of Duane Gish shows, even PhD doesn’t necessarily mean anything. What are his arguments?
K> said, "Scripture is quite definite that God created the world, and I for one believe that to be a fact, not fiction. There is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, to support the theory of evolution." (Quoted in H. Enoch, Evolution or Creation?, Evangelical Press, 1966, p. v)
See? Kennedy offers no arguments from Wakely, just a personal opinion. And this opinion illustrates Wakely’s lack of knowledge: the creation of the world concerns cosmology; it is certainly not an event that falls within the bounds of evolution, which only describes changes in the gene pool of a population over time. He doesn’t even know what evolution is. So, this "authority" falls flat from scientific ignorance.
K> As famous a scientist as Sir Ambrose Fleming completely rejects it, as does the Harvard scientist, Louis Agassiz, probably one of the greatest scientists America has produced.
More appeal to authority. Ambrose Fleming was the inventor of the diode tube. Kennedy might have used his name due to similarity with Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin. On the other hand, Agassiz was probably the last of the truly respectable creationist geologists. He was not "produced" in America; he was Swiss (though he did move to the United States where he was a professor at Harvard, at age 40).
Dr. Kennedy’s use of the present tense for both men marks another sneaky attempt at deception. An uninformed reader would be misled into thinking that they reject evolution in our present time. Fleming died in 1945, and Agassiz died way back in 1873, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
K> In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis is an amazing statement, coming from 3,500 years ago, of the divine creation of the universe.
The mistake here lies in assuming that the poetic verses of Genesis represent a record of historical fact. There are many amazing things in Genesis, especially its own internal disagreement about order in which things were created. Considered as literal historical fact, what’s really amazing is that people as late as a mere three and a half millennia ago got it so wrong. On the other hand, considered as allegory, one can appreciate the limited scientific knowledge of the ancients, and interpret it in ways that don’t oppose science.
K> But it should be pointed out that it is not possible to combine the Bible and evolution, as some people want to do. I believe they engage in this compromise only because they think that science has proved evolution and they must take the Scripture as some sort of putty nose to twist around until they have made it conform to evolution. Those who are evolutionists laugh at the idea that you can put evolution and the Bible together.
This also exudes a faint scent of appeal to authority; the authority of Scripture. Possibly some people might be swayed by such arguments. I think that instead, those who "engage in this compromise" recognize the evidence, and attempt to re-interpret the Bible so that it doesn’t contradict the evidence. I don’t personally see anything wrong with that exercise. If it leads to a more "correct" interpretation of the Bible, that’s certainly better than a wrong interpretation.
There are evolutionists out there who are quite devout Christians. I think the millions of Bible-believing Christians who accept evolution would be offended by this paragraph.
K> Thomas Huxley, probably the most famous proponent of evolution who ever lived, stated, "It is clear that the doctrine of evolution is directly antagonistic to that of Creation. . . . Evolution, if consistently accepted, makes it impossible to believe the Bible." (Coppedge, p. 177)
I’ve heard others disagree. However, this isn’t surprising as something Huxley (who coined the word "agnostic") might have said. I’d really like to know what was left out of this quotation, though. Creationists have a nasty habit of using ellipses to distort what was actually said. The fact that Kennedy doesn’t give a direct citation to Huxley makes me wonder.
In any case, nobody who accepts basic biological facts can believe the Bible as a reliable source of scientific facts. For example, the Bible says birds and insects have four legs (Lev. 11:20-23) rabbits ruminate (Lev. 11:6), camels do not have cloven hooves (Lev. 11:4) – glaring errors in basic biology! These examples are so clear and unambiguous, yet wrong. If these are indeed the words of God, he must not care much for accuracy.
The Bible also contains errors regarding our planet. The view that the Earth is fixed, immovable and nonrotating (Josh. 10:12, 1 Chron. 16:30, Psalms 93:1, 96:10, 104:5) was used in the Holy Writ to convict Galileo of heresy. The Bible also says the Earth rests on pillars (1 Sam. 2:8) and has four corners (Isa. 11:12, Rev. 7:1). Daniel (4:10-11) "saw a tree of great height at the centre of the Earth, reaching with its top to the sky, and visible on the Earth’s farthest bounds." This would only be possible if the Earth was flat. In the New Testament (Mat. 6:13), Satan took Jesus to the top of a mountain from where they could see all the kingdoms on Earth.
Incredibly, some creationists actually still believe the Earth is flat. Others know the form of our planet but they deny all evidence that it rotates and orbits the sun (see The Earth Is Not Moving by Marshall Hall, 1991). These convictions make a powerful testament to their commitment to dogma in the face of overwhelming evidence. They do this in accordance with their Biblical view of the world. Other creationists rightfully reject these foolish notions, which means they interpret literally only parts of the Bible, but they still face contradictions. Geologist Ian Plimer writes in his book Telling Lies for God: "Such selective literalism traps creationists in their own dogma."
Our modern view of the world, based upon a vast and coherent body of scientific knowledge, is considerably more sophisticated. Nevertheless, our modern view can and does change as new evidence arises. Most people deem the fixed literalist Biblical view as nonsense; indeed, many Christians regard this view as a mockery of the Bible and un-Christian.
K> Evolution is the religion of modern unbelieving man, and it has been the pseudoscientific foundation of every false and anti-Christian "ism" that has come down the pike in the last hundred years.
Here Kennedy provides Christians an emotional stake in denouncing evolution. This is understandable. After all, if evolution attacks their beliefs, it’s better to stop evolution before another anti-Christian "ism" crops up.
However, his implication that creationism is, by contrast, not pseudoscience, demonstrates Dr. Kennedy’s ignorance about the subject. Let’s look at the criteria for pseudoscience. A theory need only meet one of these measures to qualify (Casti, pp. 474-477), and so-called "scientific creationism" certainly conforms to several of them:
- Anachronistic Thinking – reverting to outmoded theories discarded years or even centuries ago as being inadequate, simplistic, or just plain wrong. For example, creationists often associate evolution with uniformitarian geological activity, and claim that geology supports catastrophism. This is anachronistic; it presents the uniformitarianism-catastrophism dichotomy as if it were still a live debate (Futuyma, p. 226), and shows a misunderstanding of uniformitarianism.
- Seeking Mysteries – setting out to look for anomalous events, with the philosophy that anything that can be seen as a mystery ought to be seen as one. Scientists do not expect to shake up science with their experiments, nor do they reject one theory in favor of another because the second theory explains one anomaly. However, an entire area of pseudoscience is dedicated to enigmas and mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, spontaneous combustion and other offbeat phenomena. Similarly, creationists play up apparent anomalies like the Paluxy River footprints or the bombardier beetle, without bothering to understand them fully.
- Appeals to Myth – here creationists shine. They consider an ancient myth to be an historical account, explain the events by postulating conditions which existed then but no longer hold today (e.g. dramatic departures from the laws of physical sciences), then consider the myth to provide support for the hypothesis, then go one step further and claim that the myth confirms the hypotheses along with selected evidence from geology, paleontology, or archaeology. This methodology is absent from science.
- Casual Approach to Evidence – the attitude that sheer quantity of evidence makes up for any quality deficiencies. In spite of experiments or study showing certain evidence to be questionable, such evidence is never dropped from the list. One example of this practice is creationist literature pointing to the Paluxy River footprints as evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, despite the fact that the alleged "human" prints involved a variety of phenomena, including forms of metatarsal dinosaur tracks, erosional features, and some carvings on loose blocks. After years of ignoring the embarrassing truth, most creationists finally dropped the Paluxy River example from their literature, although they still cling to other specious and out-of-date "evidence" such as the absence of fossils in Precambrian rock (which contains many fossils), or the nonexistence of transitional fossils (of which thousands have been found in the last century).
- Irrefutable Hypotheses – this relates to the falsifiability criterion of science. We should always be able to ask what it would take to produce evidence against any hypothesis. If nothing can conceivably falsify the hypothesis, it has no claim to be scientific. Creationism is the best example; it is just not possible to falsify the creationist model of the world.
- Spurious Similarities – arguing that principles underpinning a pseudoscientific theory are already part of legitimate science. For example, biorhythm theorists maintain that biorhythms are consistent with current biological thought, because the claims of biorhythm studies are similar to claims of biologists studying circadian rhythms and chemical and electrical oscillations in the human body. Likewise, creationists often misconstrue scientific concepts such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics to support their view.
- Explanation by Scenario – if scientists offer scenarios to explain certain phenomena when we don’t have a complete set of data to construct the exact circumstances, they make sure the scenarios are consistent with known laws and principles. On the other hand, pseudoscience engages in explanation by scenario without proper backing of known laws. For example, creationist Immanuel Velikovsky posits that a near-collision with Venus caused the Earth to flip over and reverse its magnetic poles. He offers no mechanism by which this event could have possibly happened, and totally ignores the basic idea of deducing consequences from general principles.
- Research by Literary Interpretation – regarding any statement by any scientist as open to interpretation. Practitioners of pseudoscience focus on the words instead of the underlying facts and reasons for the statements in scientific literature. Dr. Kennedy applies this principle by selectively quoting opinions (often out of context) rather than supporting arguments.
- Refusal to Revise – pseudoscientists never revise their pet theories even when shown to be wrong, refusing to acknowledge any criticism. A variant of this ploy is to reply to criticism but never revise one’s position in light of it. Creationists such as Gish and Morris serve as sterling examples of the power of this principle; both continue to publish error-ridden books and pamphlets long after the factual errors have been pointed out to them. As this chapter by Dr. Kennedy superbly demonstrates, these creationists don’t see scientific debate as a mechanism for progress, but rather as a rhetorical contest. (In fairness, I must say that there are revised theories of creationism where the age of the Earth is concerned. "Old Earth" creationists recognize and accept evidence from geology, radiometry, paleontology, etc., and interpret the "days" of creation in Genesis as geological periods. The "young Earth" creationists, like Henry Morris, refuse to revise their notion that the Earth is a few thousand years old. Creationism may well be losing this attribute of pseudoscience, although it still qualifies in other areas.)
- Shifting the Burden of Proof – When proposing a new hypothesis, support should be provided by the person making the claims. A typical ploy of creationists is to present their hypothesis and then demand that it be proven wrong, without realizing that the burden of proof is on them. They act as if arguments supporting the theory are peripheral to it; they fail to see that what makes a theory acceptable is not just the theory itself, but also its supporting arguments.
Now Kennedy continues with appeals to authority of a different sort, and other distortions:
K> For example, consider Nazism. Hitler accepted the evolutionary platitudes of Nietzsche: the idea of a super race.
Nietzsche said little if anything of evolution; his main points had nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. And Hitler "believed" whatever suited his purposes at the moment; in fact Christianity was only one such thing. Hitler also admired the control the Catholic Church had over people; that does not make Catholics bad and many Catholics died resisting Hitler. See Mein Kampf for details about Hitler’s beliefs; also William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich contains chapters based on Hitler’s own writings which should settle any argument about Hitler’s scruples with respect to rationalizing his actions.
K> "Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," a subtitle of Darwin’s book, had to do with the survival of the fittest race.
Irrelevant. Here Dr. Kennedy employs the fallacy of equivocation. He twists together two completely different meanings of the word "fittest." He also makes a clever play on the ambiguity of meaning in the word "race." Darwin used the word in the sense of biological populations, such as subspecies, or the various breeds of pigeons.
K> Hitler’s master race was simply an outgrowth of evolutionary thinking.
What a barefaced lie. Hitler’s master race was an outgrowth of primitive prejudice and superstition, amply fuelled by the general anti-Semitism of the time and area, which drew upon any source it could – including the Church. Fitness, in evolutionary terms, is something entirely different (recall the earlier example about diabetics).
K> Mussolini, who frequently quoted Darwin in catch phrases, said that the idea of peace was repugnant to the idea of the survival of the fittest and the progress of the race; war was essential for the survival of the fittest.
It is irrelevant that Mussolini quoted Darwin. Mussolini probably quoted a lot of people. What does a fascist politician know of biology? Mussolini’s version of "fittest" may have been "most ruthless," which might be correct in times of war, but not in general, and certainly not in a biological sense.
The phrase "the survival of the fittest" is from Herbert Spencer’s philosophy of Social Darwinism, which has little to do with Darwin’s views (though Darwin himself quoted Spencer’s phrase from time to time in later editions of The Origin of Species). Kennedy fails to understand that the misapplication of poorly understood ideas of evolution has no bearing on the question of whether evolution has happened.
K> It is well-known that Karl Marx asked Darwin to write the introduction to Das Kapital since he felt that Darwin had provided a scientific foundation for Communism.
In a single sentence, Dr. Kennedy achieves the dubious distinction of having three flaws of reasoning crash down on him at once. Here he employs a fallacy known as the Red Herring: Marx’s feelings are irrelevant to the validity of evolution. Are we now interviewing economists and philosophers for their opinions on evolutionary biology?
Furthermore, Kennedy fabricates a distortion of fact. Marx wanted to dedicate volume 2 of Das Kapital to Darwin, but Darwin declined the offer (Gould, Ever Since Darwin, p. 26).
Lastly, it is well-known that Hitler was a strong opponent of Marxism. By making the erroneous assumption that both Nazism and Marxism are both derived from a foundation of evolution, Dr. Kennedy has reached a contradiction.
K> All over the world, those who are pushing the Communist conspiracy are also pushing an evolutionary, imperialistic, naturalistic view of life, endeavoring to crowd the Creator right out of the cosmos.
What communist conspiracy is that? Oh yes, the book was written in 1980. Communism is no longer a real threat, and evolution science has been quite unaffected by its demise.
This comparison with Nazism and Communism is the worst sort of emotional appeal I have run across in quite some time. Not only that, but Kennedy fails to name specific groups. Conspiracy theories need more than bare assertion to back them up.
K> In the first chapter of Genesis, the Hebrew term bara, indicating the direct creation of God, is used three times. It is used, first of all, for the creation of matter – the material cosmos. Second, it is used for the creation of life, and third, for the creation of man.
This fallacy is called circulus in demonstrando – using the Bible to support Biblical creationism. And how does a Hebrew word support creationism?
K> Every peg upon which evolution has stood is collapsing and crumbling about it today, and more and more scientists are in rebellion.
I note that the chapter supplies no examples to support this statement. Indeed, every peg on which creationism stood already crumbled over the last century, but many creationists insist on remaining blind to this fact. No biologist would think of submitting a paper entitled "New Evidence for Evolution" because it simply is not regarded as an issue. As stated earlier, new fields and methods of science (e.g. molecular biology, genetics, various dating methods) have spectacularly corroborated the conclusions from older sciences (e.g. paleontology, geology), to the point where the relevant knowledge is so diverse that one person cannot possibly comprehend it all.
This "rebellion" is news to me, unless one takes it to mean that more and more creationists passing themselves off as scientists are in rebellion, which is true. Again, the failure to supply names is significant. It is up to Kennedy to substantiate his assertion by giving specific names of the scientists in question. More to the point, he should give their reasons for abandoning evolution.
K> The leading scientist in France today, author of an eighteen-volume encyclopedia of zoology, whose knowledge of zoology, according to the evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, is absolutely encyclopedic, came out with an attack about six years ago  that demolished evolution on every front. Dobzhansky says that though we may disagree with him, we certainly cannot ignore him, because his knowledge is absolutely staggering.
Dobzhansky is a believing Russian Orthodox Christian, which shows the compatibility of evolution with religious beliefs. The French scientist in question is Pierre Paul Grassé. Dr. Kennedy not only omits his name, but he misinterprets the man’s work. Grassé’s books were critical of Darwinism specifically, not evolution per se – hardly a demolition of evolution "on every front." Dobzhansky’s comment on Grassé’s knowledge may be found in Philip E. Johnson’s book Darwin On Trial, written by a law professor who does not accept evolution. Johnson quotes Dobzhansky:
The book of Pierre P. Grassé is a frontal attack on all kinds of "Darwinism." Its purpose is "to destroy the myth of evolution, as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon," and to show that evolution is a mystery about which little is, and perhaps can be, known. Now one can disagree with Grassé but not ignore him. He is the most distinguished of French zoologists, the editor of the 28 volumes of Traite de Zoologie, author of numerous original investigations, and ex-president of the Academie des Sciences. His knowledge of the living world is encyclopedic. (Johnson, p. 158)
Note that Grassé disagrees both with Darwinism and with the idea that evolution is simple, understood, and explained. He maintains instead that evolution is a mystery (Grassé actually favors Lamarckism for philosophical and chauvinistic reasons – Lamarck was French). He does not disagree that evolution is a fact. Jeremy Rifkin, in his book Algeny, also mentioned Grassé’s criticism of Darwinism. Notes Stephen Jay Gould: "Rifkin then suggests that the entire field of evolution may be pseudoscience because the great French zoologist Pierre-Paul Grassé is so critical of Darwinism (the theory of natural selection might be wrong, but Grassé devoted his entire life to studying the facts of evolution)." (Gould, An Urchin in the Storm, p. 234.)
Creationists tend to interpret any criticism of strict Darwinism as undermining the entire idea of evolution. They ignore the way science actually works. Unlike religion, science does not work by establishing absolute dogmas which are unchangeable, but by setting up hypotheses and criticizing them. Any hypothesis which fails under testing must be rejected or modified. Darwin was not 100% correct, but his theory held up better than predecessors like Lamarck’s theory that behaviorally-acquired physical characteristics could be transferred from generation to generation. Lamarck’s theory would suggest, for example, that muscles developed by weight-lifters would be passed on to their children. We know this doesn’t happen. Languages, however, do change through acquisitions, therefore linguistic evolution is Lamarckian.
If creationists think that disagreement among scientists about Darwinism undermines evolution, then by their own logic, wouldn’t disagreement among creationists about creationism invalidate creationism? Some creationists say the Earth was made in six days, others consider the "days" to be longer periods. Some believe the creation but reject the flood. Some think the Earth is flat or that it does not rotate. Some use abiogenesis as the creation date (about 4 billion years ago), some use the big bang as the creation date (about 15 billion years ago), some believe that God guides evolution, and some believe that God merely set up the initial conditions of the universe in such a way that life came into being. Many disagreements exist among creationists.
For a good book about the different creationist interpretations, see The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism by Ronald Numbers. This book is praised by both scientists and creationists alike, including Morris.
K> This is interesting because until recently, it has been very difficult for any scientist to make antievolutionary statements in the face of the tremendous pressure that has been exerted upon them.
Dr. Kennedy makes this pronouncement without support. Rather, it is quite difficult for scientists to make antievolutionary statements without flying in the face of evidence. Here we have another conspiracy theory, now on the "suppression of creationism" theme. Conspiracy theories are by definition not falsifiable; it does Kennedy no credit to be so amply using them.
K> Let us consider one of the three uses of bara, the creation of the material universe. This is a problem that evolutionists never solved.
Why should they solve it? Evolution has nothing to do with cosmology or the so-called creation of the universe. Scientists define evolution as the change in the genetics of a population over time, or more broadly, the idea that all living things on Earth have a common ancestor (or possibly a small number of common ancestors, but the evidence is generally in favor of a single ancestor). Why Kennedy should expect any connection between biology and astrophysics makes as little sense as astrology.
This chapter purports to be about creation, but it actually concentrates on criticizing scientific ideas of origins. The book actually says very little in support of creation. Dr. Kennedy lumps all "origin" theories, biological and cosmological, into the "religion" of evolution. Which just goes to show what little Kennedy knows of origins. In this commentary, I have consistently used the term "evolution" in the scientific sense.
Besides, is there a need to "solve" a non-problem? Why does the material universe require a "creation" in order to exist? Ah, but Kennedy provides us with actual "evidence" from astronomy. Read on. . . .
K> Astronomers believe for the most part a "big bang" theory – once the universe was in one great condensed piece of matter and then it exploded with an explosion beyond our comprehension. It was an explosion that threw out particles the size of the Milky Way, our galaxy.
To be precise, the universe was once a singularity. You can’t really describe it as "great" other than in terms of mass-energy. And it threw out no particles at all; the temperature and energy levels were far too high. Particles came later on, condensing into galaxies.
K> These are speeding outward into space.
No, it is space itself that is "speeding outward." The universe is expanding, but not as an object within a larger space. Where did the big bang take place? Everywhere. Space as we know it was condensed into the singularity.
Some newer inflation theories include such concepts as infinite universes, of which ours is but one. Those are different from the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics, which says that for all events, all possible outcomes occur, but each separate outcome results in another version of the universe.
K> If true, that would indicate that the universe was not eternal and had a beginning.
There is no reason to assume that nothing existed before the universe. Unless the law of conservation of energy is invalid, we can only assume that the components of the existing universe were around in some form prior to the Big Bang (if the words "prior to" have any meaning in such a distorted space-time). Perhaps Dr. Kennedy should follow some of the literature on early universe scenarios.
K> To overcome this, they said it would slow down and finally come to a stop. Then gravity would pull it back together again, and it would oscillate back and forth throughout all eternity, recreating itself.
This is an oversimplification of one of three possible scenarios of universal future. An oscillating universe is still a live option. It depends on whether or not enough mass exists to close the universe gravitationally and cause it to fall back in on itself. Read Stephen Hawking for details, especially A Brief History of Time, as that is his most easily-understood work.
Note also that the concept of an oscillating universe is not incompatible with more ancient religions such as Hinduism.
K> What has science to say about that? An article in the science section of Time magazine in the last two years said concerning the infinite universe: "Last week, after years of study and calculation, two respected California astronomers, Allan Sandage and James Gunn made separate but similar announcements: The universe will continue to expand forever."
The jury is still very much out on the subject. Despite what two astronomers said many years ago, we still don’t have nearly enough data to tell. Recent (but as yet uncertain) evidence pointing to the possibility of neutrinos having mass, or to the existence of "dark matter" in space, may indicate that the universe is indeed closed. If neutrinos have mass, that fact alone might be enough to close the universe. The issue is definitely not settled yet, however.
K> Sandage, of the Hale Observatories, basing his conclusion on fifteen years of careful observations of distant galaxies, notes that measurements of the amount their light has shifted toward the red end of the spectrum indicates they are not slowing down at all but accelerating.
The referenced article says nothing of the sort! Did Dr. Kennedy lie intentionally, or did he actually misunderstand an article written for laypeople? He certainly seems to treat his other sources with such a casual disregard for content. The article never says that galaxies aren’t slowing down at all; rather it says the slowdown Sandage did observe was not as great as expected. Nor does the article say that galaxies accelerate outward; this is absurd. Rather, it explains that more distant galaxies have higher velocities than closer ones, consistent with the big bang theory. As an illustration, imagine a loaf of raisin bread expanding at a steady rate. The rate of separation between individual raisins is highest for the raisins furthest apart, but no raisin actually accelerates.
I’d like give Dr. Kennedy the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not like other creationists, and that he didn’t intentionally misrepresent the article. But if he didn’t, then he is obviously incapable of learning even a few basic astronomy concepts from a magazine like Time, so it’s not surprising that he lacks any understanding of evolution and origin sciences, which require more specialized knowledge. It has been said that people fear what they don’t understand – Kennedy’s attacks on science would appear to substantiate this idea.
K> So there is no possibility that these will ever turn back. Even more important, the red shift measurements of nearby galaxies gave no indication of the slightest gravitational slowdown in the outward rush of the galaxies.
Yet another distortion. Kennedy’s "no indication of the slightest gravitational slowdown" means something different from the phrase "no indication of any significant gravitational slowdown" as written in the article. In any case, Sandage and Gunn came to one conclusion in their 1974 studies. Hundreds of other studies conclude the opposite. The issue is not yet settled.
K> "It’s a terrible surprise," says Sandage, who for years had been a leading proponent of the idea that the universe would eventually close in on itself. Both men expect their conclusion to stir a storm of protest.
Well, 20 years later, the storm of protest hasn’t happened (nor did I hear of it in my graduate-level astrophysics class 12 years ago). And what has the future fate of the universe to do with evolution and the origin of life? And why are creationists like Dr. Kennedy, who seem so hell-bent on discrediting science and the scientific community, suddenly seem so very eager to utilize its fruits?
K> Gunn and Gustav Tammann, who did their work at the Mount Palomar 200-inch-telescope observatory, say that the arguments for a closed universe are almost "theological in nature." (Time, 30 December 1974, p. 48)
25 years ago, cosmologists were theorists, short on data, spinning ideas out of conjecture and equations. That is no longer the case. New generations of telescopes and new kinds of detectors provide such a wealth of data that cosmology has become characterized more by actual experiment than theory, and experimenters collect data so fast that confusion can result ("Rethinking Cosmic Questions," Los Angeles Times, 6 March 1995). Cosmology is now experiencing radical changes, but "theological" it isn’t.
K> People hold to them passionately because if they give them up, they must then acknowledge a beginning of the universe. Along with a beginning, there must be a creator, a God, to whom they must answer.
And this creator was created by. . . ? This is the "first cause" ontological argument.
K> "This expansion is such a strange conclusion," Gunn said, "that one’s first assumption is that it cannot really be true, and yet, it is the premier fact." And for that premier fact of modern astronomy – that the universe had a beginning – the evolutionist now has no explanation whatsoever.
Again, Dr. Kennedy displays confusion about the meaning of "evolution." The research he cites is now 20 years out of date. The current status of the future of the universe still lacks certainty due to insufficient data. As to the origin, quantum physics suggests that the universe originated out of a mere quantum fluctuation. To someone knowledgeable, divine intervention seems like one of the less likely scenarios.
K> Then consider the creation of life. Darwin repeatedly referred to the simple single cell. With the crude microscopes available in his time, the single cell looked a little bit like a tiny basketball with a seed in the middle of it. But now the human cell is known to be fantastically complex,
Wait a minute! Why this sudden jump from simple cells to human cells in the same breath? Darwin wasn’t talking of any human cells. A better candidate would be some suitably primitive prokaryote, or something even simpler still.
K> made up of hundreds of thousands of smaller protein molecules, and Harvard University paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson tells us that a single protein molecule is the most complicated substance known to mankind.
Which protein is that? There are many. Some are simpler that others. And many, like cytochrome C, exist in a seemingly limitless variety of forms.
K> A single cell is so infinitely complex that it boggles the minds of scientists who have studied it.
If one could quantify complexity, the complexity of a cell is far closer to zero than to infinity. But it is complex. Any human cell is far more complex than a bacterium, but even a bacterium is a highly complex cell with four billion years of history behind it. It would be foolish to expect no change from primitive simplicity in four billion years. Despite a cell’s complexity, we can still model it, and achieve some success in doing so. We cannot prove or disprove the divine intervention hypothesis, but we might be able to find support or disproof of the catalyst theory of cellular formation.
K> A recent science that has developed is the science of probability. Dr. James Coppedge, PhD, director of the Center for Probability Research in Biology in California, applied all the laws of probability studies to the possibility of a single cell coming into existence by chance.
In his description of Coppedge’s work, Dr. Kennedy sets up an elaborate straw man fallacy. A straw man argument consists of misrepresenting a position so that it can be attacked more easily, then knocking down that misrepresented position, then concluding that the original position has been demolished, all the while failing to deal with what was actually claimed.
This whole probability experiment is a straw man fallacy because it refutes a position that no scientist takes. Some problems should be immediately obvious:
1. The earliest life did not have the full complexity of a modern cell.
2. The probability of a complex modern cell arising spontaneously is a meaningless number. You might as well argue the probability of an elephant materializing out of thin air.
3. This estimate of probability presupposes falsely that basic mechanisms, like laws of chemical bonding, do not take place.
4. The experiment also makes the erroneous assumption that only one molecular configuration will make a viable living cell, out of a virtually infinite number not considered.
Garbage in, garbage out. The results cannot be used to argue against evolution.
K> He considered in the same way a single protein molecule, and even a single gene. His discoveries are revolutionary. He computed a world in which the entire crust of the earth – all the oceans, all the atoms, and the whole crust were available. He then had these amino acids bind at a rate of one and one-half trillion times faster than they do in nature. In computing the possibilities, he found that to provide a single protein molecule by chance combination would take 10^262 years.
This entire "spontaneous protein" argument gets replayed over and over again in creationist literature. Proteins do not appear by chance combinations, nor are the various steps involved necessarily independent, therefore this argument is entirely irrelevant, and wrong.
Let me make an analogy. Consider one of those novelty devices containing a fluid and different colors of sand. When you turn it upside-down, the sand takes several minutes to settle, and always seems to make a pretty pattern that looks remarkably like a painting of hills and mountains, complete with ridges, ravines, and shadows. If you were to compute the probability that hundreds of thousands of sand grains arranged randomly would produce a particular pattern, you would come up with pretty long odds – much worse than 1 in 10^262. Yet it happens every time you invert this device. What about the probability of getting the same landscape image twice in a row? The odds against that are even greater. This analogy makes two points:
1. Patterns contained in living organism do not arise purely at random. There are other forces at work, just as there was on the sand. Chemistry is not a random process – molecules do not bond randomly; their behavior conforms to specific attractive forces, and the presence of catalysts will affect reaction rates. Various combinations are not equally probable, nor equally stable. As longer structures form, metastable states are likely to persist. Coppedge’s exercise neglected to consider any of these issues. Since 1 in 10^262 was derived from an analysis of random events, the simple fact that the events are not actually random voids the analysis.
2. Whatever the probability of life arising spontaneously might be, the probability is vanishingly small that, if started all over again from scratch, it would take an identical or even a similar path to what Earth’s history has already seen. This is because, although evolution does not derive its complexity from random events, it is certainly influenced by them. Expecting all of the random events that influenced evolution on Earth to be repeated exactly is immensely unrealistic. It is like the sand in the fluid producing a picture identical to a previous one. Physical forces always form it into similar patterns, but never the same one twice.
K> Most of us do not have any idea what this means. To get a single cell – the single smallest living cell known to mankind – which is called the mycroplasm hominis H 39, would take 10^119,841 years.
I presume "mycoplasma" is meant here. Calculating the probability of forming a contemporary cell by chance, which is much more complex than, say, a primitive prokaryote, is meaningless. No scientist believes that is how life arose. All these arguments make use of false assumptions, such as molecules behaving randomly rather than combining according to the rules of chemistry and physics.
K> That means that if you took thin pieces of paper and wrote 1 and then wrote zeros after them, you would fill up the entire known universe with paper before you could even write that number.
Wrong. That number is 1 with 119,841 zeros after it. You would fill up all the pages of a long pamphlet (or this chapter commentary). Likely he really means filling paper with 10^119,841 marks instead of just 119,841 zeros. After witnessing Dr. Kennedy fail to grasp simple concepts in astronomy, I’m not surprised to see that he doesn’t understand large numbers either.
K> That is how many years it would take to make one living cell, smaller than any human cell!
Size does not equal complexity. Complexity comes into being in hierarchical stages, not by some gigantic lottery! Since we already have observed that molecules of fewer than a dozen monomers are capable of self-replication, it seems clear that one does not need much complexity initiate the process. Random chance does not determine the outcome of molecular combinations; it only influences it. And once there is replication, natural selection takes over as an anti-chance agency.
Let me describe the process of cell formation briefly. A naturally-occurring self-replicating molecule (SRM), like RNA, can replicate without enzymes (there are many SRMs; nobody knows what was the first to occur, although the Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated that RNA was probably one of them). RNA’s association with simple proteins (formed by the RNA itself or elsewhere) make it more stable. DNA then forms, probably through an error in RNA replication. DNA is more stable, can exist in longer chains, store information better, replicate more efficiently, and is more error-free. Association with protein causes the DNA to grow more useful and more complex, resulting in primitive virus-like forms, which lead to simple prokaryotes, from which other life evolves. Laws of molecular behavior, influenced by chance, determine how events will happen.
It is even possible that the process of evolution was at work even before the first SRM formed. All you need is some selection process which favors the precursors of the original SRM over other molecules. Perhaps these simpler molecules tended to stick to each other forming a dense mat. Or perhaps these molecules tended to cling to rocks or clay, whereas other molecules washed away. Or perhaps they were more resistant to extremes of temperature or UV light. The possibilities are endless, but any one of these could have provided a greater abundance of the constituents of the original SRM than random chance alone would allow. Cairns-Smith proposes that the original self-replicating molecules were crystals of inorganic material, and that organic SRMs came from them. We don’t know if this is likely, but it does point out nicely the vast number of possibilities for abiogenesis.
As an analogy to Coppedge’s calculation, consider the Bergeron process, the mechanism by which water condenses on clay particles. Without it, surface tension is quite a strong electrostatic force, causing small droplets of water to evaporate spontaneously, even if the surrounding air is totally saturated. Add dust to the picture, however, and the Bergeron process will cause a local reduction in surface tension and vapor pressure near a droplet, allowing condensation to occur.
Now, if you ignore this process while calculating the probability of a raindrop forming by water molecules randomly combining, one at a time, until an average-size drop was formed, assuming all the Earth’s water is in cloud form, and the molecules have an expected average velocity at an appropriate dew-point temperature, you get a probability of about 1 in 10^56. It would take about 20 billion years to form a single raindrop!
The mathematics is valid, but neglecting the Bergeron process makes the physics just plain wrong. Similarly, Coppedge’s mathematics is correct, but his chemistry is fiction. In reality, thanks to the laws of physics, we have rain. And thanks to chemistry, we have life.
K> In trying to explain to us the length of time it would take for chance to produce one usable gene, Dr. Coppedge suggested that we imagine a single amoeba trying to carry the known universe one atom at a time across the entire width of the universe (which astronomers estimate to be thirty billion light years). At what speed would this energetic and never-dying one-celled animal carry out this stupendous task? Dr. Coppedge reduced its speed to the slowest conceivable speed, namely, one angstrom unit every fifteen billion years. This means that the amoeba would be traveling the width of the smallest known atom, the hydrogen atom, in the supposed entire time that the universe has existed; that is, fifteen billion years.
Well, that’s between 10 to 20 billion years. At least he acknowledges that the universe might be older than 4004 BC, but I notice he puts a qualifier on it.
K> At this incredibly slow speed, how long would it take our superpersistent amoeba to move the entire universe over the width of one universe? The time requirements for such a transgalactic job are mind-boggling. However, before one usable gene could be produced by chance, our indefatigable amoeba would not only have moved the entire universe one atom at a time, but would have moved more universes than the four billion people living on this planet could count if every one of them counted twenty-four hours a day as fast as they could for the next five thousand years. Yet evolutionists would have us believe that things vastly more complex than this happen all of the time. (Coppedge, chap. 6)
Aside from the weakness of this Argument from Personal Incredulity, abiogenesis doesn’t happen "all of the time" because the general state of the planet is not conducive to its occurrence anymore. Kennedy also forgets that evolution is not dependent on abiogenesis. Evolution only describes how living stuff develops once it’s already alive.
K> Emile Borel, the great French scientist and probability expert, points out that if anything on the cosmic level is of a probability ratio of more than 10^50 to 1, it will never happen.
So, because we can calculate the probability against a raindrop forming to be 10^56 to 1, we must conclude that it never rains? Wouldn’t these exercises in probability be more meaningful if they had relevance to the real world?
K> The probability of producing a human cell by chance is 10^119,000 to 1, a number we cannot even comprehend.
This is typical of creationists presenting irrelevant results as "evidence." It’s a classic straw man argument. Contrary to what Kennedy suggests, science does not say that human cells occurred "by chance," let alone by molecules coming together all at once. That’s a ridiculous concept. Human cells evolved! Mutation, having an element of chance, provides variation. A selection process determines the future of those variations. That is what evolution is all about. The combined mechanisms account for change and diversity in ways that strict random chance never could.
I get impatient with such blatant pseudoscientific misuse of statistics. Christians don’t like it when non-Christians quote the Bible out of context; scientists don’t like it when creationists don’t take the time to understand basic scientific principles. The Pharisees took the Scriptures out of context to further their own agenda. Jesus told us not to do that. One reasonably expects creationists to show science the same courtesy.
A good criticism of creationist probability arguments is "Probability and the Origin of Life" by Russell F. Doolittle, in Godfrey’s Scientists Confront Creationism. Shapiro’s Origins also contains a very good layman’s treatment of order-of-magnitude probability analysis regarding origin-of-life hypotheses.
K> According to the probability scientists, it could never happen. The same is true with all other development, including man’s. We are told that somehow in the last two billion years, not only did this come to pass, but this single living cell also evolved into every other kind of living creature – that all living beings evolved from that one single thing. (Coppedge, pp. 166-7)
The actual number is more like 4 billion years. Nevertheless, even if a convincing theory of abiogenesis was never developed, this would in no way impact the validity of evolution. They are two separate problems.
K> Thomas Huxley said: "The primary and direct evidence in favor of evolution can be furnished only by paleontology. . . . If evolution has taken place, its marks will be left; if it has not taken place, there will be its refutation." (Quoted in Enoch, p. 22) The great evolutionist says that it is only in paleontology – only in the fossil record – that evolution will be proved.
This information is out of date. Using such a statement today is incorrect and narrow-minded. As explained earlier, evidence of evolution exists elsewhere besides paleontology. Look at molecular biology. Look at drug resistance. Look at observed speciation in flowers, finches, and flies (more on these later). Evolution has left ample traces in both the genetic makeup and the zoology of living species.
The same Thomas Huxley also said, "In fact, the whole evidence is in favour of evolution, and there is none against it." (Huxley, p. 63, emphasis mine) Huxley was well-acquainted with paleontology. Kennedy has yet to demonstrate even the vaguest familiarity with the field.
This is a good time to talk about molecular biology. Cell proteins, such as hemoglobin B, fibrinopeptide A, or cytochrome C, can take on a bewildering myriad of forms, and every species has unique forms of these proteins. The degree of difference in protein forms can be used to determine relation distance between two species. For example, a sparrow’s cytochrome C will have more similarity to a parrot’s than to the cytochrome C of an octopus. By analyzing molecular differences between proteins of different species, we can reconstruct a "tree of life" showing the genealogical relationships of the Earth’s creatures. Using a different proteins (other than cytochrome C), we still get a very similar tree. Biologists often use molecular studies to corroborate observations obtained through other means (Dawkins, pp. 270-274).
The fact that basing a molecular study on a different protein results in a closely similar family tree is itself amazing, considering that over 650 million possible trees can represent the relationships between just eleven creatures. For twenty creatures, the number of possible family trees is 8,200,794,532,637,981,559,375, or about 10^22 (Dawkins, p. 273). But what’s really amazing is that the resultant tree also agrees closely with the fossil record tree from paleontology! This is a beautiful example of how one science provides independent confirmation of findings from another discipline.
There are many instances of independent confirmation from different areas of science. For example, different methods of dating, using radioactivity, tree rings, ice cores, or corals, all give consistent results. Such coherence practically requires that a theory be accepted as fact for all intents and purposes. That’s why scientists accept evolution: when you have indisputable evidence, you don’t need faith.
K> "Geological research . . . does not yield the infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species required." (Quoted in Did Man Get Here by Evolution or Creation?, Watchtower Bible Tract, 1967, p. 45) The author of that statement was Charles Darwin.
Paleontology was relatively young in Darwin’s time. This quote proves nothing, for many new discoveries have been made in the fossil record since then. Also, the Gradualism model Darwin referred to is no longer widely accepted. Science often discards or modifies old theories which are not sufficiently robust. The current model, Punctuated Equilibrium, explains that we will see long periods of stability with no significant mutations, punctuated by brief intervals of significant change ("brief" in geological time, millions of years), where a sub-population becomes isolated somehow and is forced to evolve quickly.
The Punctuated Equilibrium model describes a distribution of evidence for evolution. It makes specific predictions about the nature of the gaps that will occur in the fossil record; for example, that gaps will be observed in areas of the originating population (even so, thousands of transitional fossils have been discovered to fill many other gaps). It also makes predictions about the nature of evolution in areas conducive to fossil preservation. Examples are the detection of "gradual" evolution in the area of satellite populations that eventually speciate, the presence of physical barriers, and the occurrence of abrupt "migration events" of evolved species replacing precursor species in a large area. Punctuated Equilibrium predicts that species will appear quickly over geological time spans, and that those species may remain for a long period without much further change. Those predictions have turned out to be correct; we now have evidence for all those processes. Stephen Jay Gould co-authored the Punctuated Equilibrium model, and it has gained favor among scientists for its ability to explain what we observe.
Ignoring for the moment that this quote comes from Watchtower (a source known to play fast and loose with facts to support the Jehovah’s Witness agenda), Darwin probably would have said something to that effect, for he realized that not every animal that ever lived managed to get fossilized.
K> George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard, the high priest of evolution today,
"High priest"? Another attempt to equate science with religion? I wonder how Professor Simpson would react to being ordained thus?
K> stated, "In spite of these examples, it remains true, as every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences." (Quoted in Morris, Troubled Waters, p. 91)
Once again, Dr. Kennedy favors us with an example of a creationist recycling another creationist’s out-of-context quotation. He omits the rest of the passage: "When paleontological collecting was still in its infancy and no clear examples of transitional origin had been found, most paleontologists were anti-evolutionists. . . . Now we do have many examples of transitional sequences." (Simpson, p. 360) Did you notice that the quotation Kennedy used mentions examples? Preceding that passage, Simpson wrote:
The chances that remains of an organism will be buried, fossilized, preserved in the rock to our day, then exposed on the surface of dry land and found by a paleontologist before they disintegrate are extremely small, practically infinitesimal. . . . In view of these facts the record already acquired is amazingly good. . . . Among the examples are many by which, beyond the slightest doubt, a species or genus has been gradually transformed into another. Such gradual transformation is also fairly well exemplified for subfamilies and occasionally for families, as the groups are commonly ranked.
Even so, the Gradualism model described by Simpson is not supported by all the evidence, which is why it’s no longer accepted by all scientists (but Kennedy shows that creationists continue to rant about it for some reason, in accordance with the "anachronistic thinking" criterion of pseudoscience described earlier). The Gradualism theory has been replaced: Punctuated Equilibrium answers every one of Kennedy’s arguments that follow.
K> We know that in the Cambrian strata of rock, all the invertebrate animals in the world suddenly appear completely complex creatures with no ancestors before them, which is totally inexplicable to the evolutionist.
Dr. Kennedy should educate himself before making such statements. He seems unaware that invertebrate fossils do not appear "suddenly" with no ancestors in Cambrian rock – Precambrian rock contains fossils even more primitive (micro-organisms), first discovered in the late 1940s at Ediacara Hills, South Australia (Gould, Book of Life, p. 46). Creationists at the ICR only recently got around to acknowledging this, although for years they published, knowingly, erroneous statements like Kennedy’s above.
K> A scientist by the name of Richard Goldschmidt points out that it is impossible by micromutations to form any new species. He said in his book Theoretical Genetics, "It is true that nobody thus far has produced a new species, or genus, etc., by micromutation. It is equally true that nobody has produced even a species by the selection of micromutations." (Quoted in Duane Gish, The Fossils Say No!, Creation-Life Publishers, 1978, p. 14)
Another secondhand quote from an unreliable source. Again, we see a deceptive use of the present tense to cast Goldschmidt’s views as present-day thinking. He died in 1958. And he’s wrong. New species, defined as a population reproductively isolated from a previous one (meaning the two will not interbreed), or even defined as organisms morphologically different from previous ones, have been observed many times to occur by selection of micromutations. I’ll describe just a few examples (most taken from the Speciation Frequently Asked Questions files in the talk.origins usenet archives).
In 1905, while studying the genetics of the evening primrose, Oenothera lamarckiana, H. De Vries discovered among his plants a variant having a different chromosome number. He was unable to breed this variant with O. lamarckiana. He named the new species O. gigas. (De Vries, Species and Varieties, Their Origin By Mutation, 1905)
In 1973, L. D. Gottlieb documented the speciation of Stephanomeira malheurensis from a large population of S. exigua in Harney County, Oregon. He was able to document morphological differences in five characteristics plus chromosomal differences. Attempts at crossbreeding these plants produced hybrids having either scant seeds and pollen, or developmental abnormalities. (American Journal of Botany 60, pp. 545-553)
After five years of selective crossbreeding, E. Pasterniani in 1969 produced almost complete reproductive isolation between two varieties of corn. The species were distinguishable by seed color, white versus yellow. Other genetic markers allowed him to identify hybrids, which were not used for future breeding. (Zea mays L. Evolution 23, pp. 534547)
There is a lot of literature about speciation in fruit flies and house flies. Different experiments have been carried out to examine separately the effects of natural selection and genetic drift. See, for example, J. Ringo, et. al, "An experiment testing two hypotheses of speciation," The American Naturalist (1989) 126, pp. 642661, or A. B. Soans, et. al, "Evolution of reproductive isolation in allopatric and sympatric populations," The American Naturalist (1974) 108, pp. 117-124.
Rapid speciation of the Faeroe Island house mouse occurred less than 250 years after humans brought it to the island. Species identification in this case was based on morphology, since breeding experiments could not be performed with the parent stock. (S. Stanley, Macroevolution: Pattern and Process, San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Company, 1979, p. 41)
During a series of natural catastrophes, the Galapagos island finch-species Geospitza fortis developed a larger beak, necessary for consuming a variety of seed unaffected by the ravages. This was a new phenotype never observed before, made manifest in just a few years time.
Even thoroughly convinced evolutionists might be shocked by the sheer rapidity of natural selection in this instance. Normally, phylogeny – the evolutionary history of a group of species – is not observable within hundreds or even thousands of generations. It is for this reason that the concept of Uniformitarianism is indispensable for the biologist: If we see evidence of evolution in the past, then we must assume that, as a process, it continues now, even if it may not be detectible within a lifetime. That we detect it anyway gives credibility to the concept of evolution.
K> In fact, he so abandons the possibility of ever slowly forming new species that he is led to what he calls his "hopeful monster theory." (Gish, p. 14) The hopeful monster theory is simply that one day a lizard laid an egg and sat on it and hatched an eagle!
The hopeful monster theory says nothing so dramatic. Here we have a good example of a creationist misconstruing statements of a scientist, which in this case are also out of date. It’s pretty typical fare for Gish. The newest edition of The Fossils Say No!, now called Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record contains the same sorts of mistakes as the previous edition. Gish had been corrected in person and in print even before the new edition came out, so ignorance is no excuse (and the book’s subsequent publication complies with the "refusal to revise" criterion of pseudoscience).
Early geneticists like De Vries were intrigued by the potential of mutation to produce new phenotypes. Naturally, for new structures to happen at all, they require genetic alterations. However, most mutations are lethal. Thus, a "hopeful monster" is a genuine miracle, having overcome the implausibility of its existence.
The central metaphor of mutationism (the view that evolution occurs by mutation without selection) is the hopeful monster. It is in part correct, yet its parochialism damns it. It does not take into account the effect of genes upon other genes – a point mutation might result in a cascade of phenotype changes. But the genes for the "new" traits were already there. A mutation, therefore, merely switched on or off existing genes. Although phenotypes do radically change over evolutionary time, old genotypes are generally not lost – they persist as an astounding quantity of "junk" DNA that, while energetically expensive to maintain, is perhaps necessary for the long-term survival of clades, or branches of the evolutionary tree.
Early scientists had no knowledge of such byzantine interrelationships, nor of the existence of transposons that add or subtract genetic material, so they might have been compelled to embrace a "hopeful monster" framework, therefore we can’t really fault them for formulating such an untenable model. Fortunately science continues to gain better knowledge, and discards outdated thinking.
Concerning transposons: One legitimate question casting doubt upon evolution theory had been "what is the source of new genetic material?" Humans have hundreds or thousands of times more material than primitive bacteria, so where did all the additional DNA come from if we evolved from primitive cells? This question was answered by the discovery of transposons, which are DNA fragments able to intercalate themselves into chromosomes. Therefore, DNA can be transcribed, be released, and be insinuated into some chromosome. This is how viruses work (notably HIV), releasing their genes into host cells, genes that actually become part of the host’s genetic material.
K> If you think that is amazing, a scientist by the name of Geoffrey Bourne recently stated that his examination of men and apes has led him to the definite conclusion that apes evolved from men.
This looks like another straw man argument. Assuming this isn’t another out-of-context interpretation, Kennedy describes an apparent contradiction to imply that evolution says humans evolved from apes. No such contradiction exists, because evolution makes no such claim. Evidence from fossils, genetics, and molecular biology indicates that both humans and apes had a common ancestor, and they evolved separately to their present forms (that’s why there are apes on Earth). It has been argued, rather eloquently, that chimpanzees and bonobos ought to be grouped into the same genus with Homo sapiens, as Homo paniscus and Homo troglodytes, respectively. Kennedy’s interpretation of Bourne’s conclusion appears to be just another way of saying the same thing.
Chimpanzees have 48 chromosomes, while humans have 46. If you compare these additional chimp chromosomes with those of humans, you find that you could get the additional ones by splitting one of the human chromosomes. Molecular studies confirm this. When humans and chimpanzees diverged from their common ancestor, the ancestor’s chromosomes remained intact in humans, but split in chimpanzees. It is understandable for a creationist to misinterpret this to mean apes evolved from humans.
K> Another scientist, B. C. Nelson, examining the similarities in blood between various animals has concluded that a pig is the closest relative to a human being – not an ape. (Enoch, p. 67) If those differing conclusions can be drawn from the same evidence, what kind of evidence is being looked at?
What "same evidence"? Anatomically, the domestic pig does happen to possess similarities to humans; it’s also one of the few other species from which we can transplant organs, even temporarily, into humans. However, Nelson should have compared genetic similarity, not blood-type similarity. Did Nelson really "conclude" that humans and pigs are the closest relatives, or did creationist Enoch infer it from Nelson’s work, the same way Kennedy inferred that galaxies accelerate? Again, who are these scientists and why aren’t they quoted directly?
K> Professor Enoch, zoologist at the University of Madras, said: "The facts of paleontology seem to support creation and the flood rather than evolution. For instance, all the major groups of invertebrates appear `suddenly’ in the first fossiliferous strata (Cambrian) of the Earth with their distinct specializations indicating that they were all created almost at the same time." (Enoch, p. 28)
Some people insist on clinging to information proven wrong in the 1940s. Precambrian rock contains the first fossiliferous strata, not Cambrian. And remember, we’re talking geological scales of time here. "Suddenly" "at the same time" spans at least 2 million years (the limit to accurate dating at the 4 billion year mark), and given the immense advantage of invertebrate structures being strong enough to survive fossilization, unlike their predecessors, one can’t really call this a surprise.
Also, the animals that do exist in the Cambrian are not the same as their present-day relatives. A strict creationist would probably call them different "kinds." The major phyla of animals extend back to the Cambrian, but not the classes, orders, and so on. Insects, for instance, are not found in any of the Cambrian fossils. This simple fact alone disproves Enoch’s statement. But what does any of this have to do with the flood?
K> The vocal evolutionist T. H. Morgan said in his book Evolution and Adaptation: "Within the period of human history we do not know of a single instance of the transformation of one species into another one. . . . It may be claimed that the theory of descent is lacking, therefore, in the most essential feature that it needs to place the theory on a scientific basis. This must be admitted." Not a single instance, and yet Huxley claims that if the evidence isn’t there, it is nowhere to be found.
But a few paragraphs ago Kennedy asserted, through quoting Huxley, that paleontology, not human history, provided the only evidence for evolution! Morgan is speaking of observed speciation, and he’s wrong on that account, as shown by the examples described earlier. "Not a single instance" may have been accepted before T. H. Morgan’s death in 1945, but that concept has since been demolished.
In any case, this quote is misleading, as we haven’t had a good definition of a "species" throughout most of "the period of human history." Different species concepts include the folk, biological, morphological, phylogenetic, and other definitions. The biological species concept is relatively recent, having gained theoretical pre-eminence in the last few decades. It defines a "species" as a reproductive community.
It can be difficult to tell if two similar populations belong to the same species. In recent years, for example, ornithologists combined the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) and Bullock’s Oriole (I. bullockii) into a single species, since they have been observed to interbreed, but on the other hand, the very similar-looking Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum) and Willow Flycatcher (E. traillii) used to be classified as a single species: Traill’s Flycatcher. This process of "lumping" and "splitting" goes on: Bicknell’s Thrush is now thought to be a separate species rather than a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus).
Until we have a good way of determining whether or not two populations belong to the same species, it is premature to make any comments about speciation within the meager "period of human history." Creationists provide no reasons why it should be so hard to distinguish one species from another. They ignore the fact that if two related species diverged only recently from a common ancestor, it makes sense that they might be difficult to distinguish.
Even so, as shown earlier, instances of populations splitting into reproductively isolated species has been observed in plants and insects. Morphological changes accompanied some of these cases, endowing the new species with obvious visible differences. These are observations – facts. And a lot of small changes over billions of years are all that’s needed to produce whole new branches in the evolutionary tree, as indicated by the fossil record.
K> It is not there!
K> Some of the greatest scientists in the world look upon evolution as something absolutely absurd, impossible, and unprovable.
Not true. If you take out all the misinterpretations, misquotations, and references to obscure individuals or outdated concepts, you are left with a chapter that presents not one single example of a respected contemporary scientist who considers evolution "absurd" or "impossible."
K> Yet millions accept it because they have been brainwashed into thinking it is true.
Theories of evolution were developed from inspecting the facts of evolution (such as observed speciation), examining evidence, and hypothesizing models that fit the evidence. Creationism is legend held up by faith. Which sounds more like brainwashing? Notice that Kennedy performs a typical creationist tactic of "supporting" creationism by pointing out, often incorrectly and dishonestly, everything that seems wrong with evolution to him, without advancing any evidence whatsoever for creationism beyond quotes from the Bible.
That’s why he needs the two-model approach. Without a false dichotomy, his arguments against evolution, even if true, would say nothing at all about creation.
K> The truth is that God made you and me. One day we will give an account to him of our lives. The Scripture plainly declares that all of us have transgressed his law and are culpable in his sight and. . . . [remainder deleted]
And so the chapter ends, with a long passage of religious rhetoric having nothing to do with evolution, creationism, origins, or anything else that was discussed before. Perhaps Dr. Kennedy needs this to give his readers emotional reassurance, for none of his arguments stand up to scrutiny. In this chapter full of polemic, I have documented his heavy use of distortions, deceptions, discredited arguments, irrelevant results, misquotations, appeals to authority and emotion, straw man arguments and other fallacies, lies, and conspiracy theories. The majority of his sources are creationist, through which he quotes scientists only indirectly (and incorrectly). The few scientific sources he does use are either unidentifiable or out of date. Dr. Kennedy’s depraved and dishonest tactics clearly reveal that "the reprobate mind, the unregenerate mind," of which he writes earlier, is actually his own!
The misquotations alone show that Kennedy cannot be trusted. Why, then, should we believe anything he says about "Why I Believe In Creation"? Despite the vigorous attempts of Kennedy and a few fundamentalist so-called "scientists" of the ICR to discredit evolution and prove creationism as literal truth, they fail miserably. As a counterattack to challenges from nonbelievers, this is by far the weakest chapter in his book.
Dr. Kennedy appears to have received much of his science education from creationist religious sources rather than from science literature. That would be like someone learning all about Christianity from a tribe of Yanomamo. If he wants to write a critique on a subject, he ought not to learn about it secondhand. You just can’t take his "knowledge" seriously.
Regarding his fervent creationist beliefs for which he provides no direct support, I would remind Dr. Kennedy of St. Augustine of Hippo, a champion of Biblical orthodoxy, who wrote in the 5th century, "We must be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are far-fetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers." (Quoted in the same issue of Time Kennedy used.) He does an admirable job of ignoring St. Augustine’s cautionary advice.
This chapter is an embarrassment to those creationists who understand science and its evidence. One person who read this chapter wrote to me in his commentary, "I claim to be a Christian, but it is a real pain having that name associated with some of those people who seem allergic to thinking!" Another was more diplomatic: "It is unfortunate that the sheer wonder of these implications [of evolution] does not appeal more broadly. I think that an authentic god is a god of wonder, not embodied in Catechism, but in a thought process that never tires from the labors."
I have so far tried to end each chapter review with a conciliatory, positive note. This chapter has so many faults that I find it difficult to do so – any respect I had for the author was vaporized by his blatant dishonesty. Let me say only that unlike Dr. Kennedy, many Christians are capable of harmonizing their religious faith with scientific facts and evidence. If science can change our interpretation of the Bible from wrong to correct, so much the better.
I am indebted to the following individuals for their valuable e-mail dialog which contributed to this chapter’s commentary, and for providing numerous references for further research:
Herman Miller (email removed, email removed)
John E. Segelke (email removed)
Steve Cowell (email removed)
Mats Andtbacka (email removed)
Ed Cannon (email removed)
Craig William Jackson (email removed)
David Wiley (email removed)
Keith Dreibelbis (email removed)
Other individuals made useful public comments in the usenet discussion group talk.origins:
Karl Hahn (email removed)
James G. Acker (email removed)
David Kay (email removed)
Some other information about subjects like speciation and transitional fossils came from various Frequently-Asked Questions files in the talk.origins archive at http://www.talkorigins.org/.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information, please see also "Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution by Mark Isaak and Frequently Asked But Never Answered Questions by Tom Scharle.
A. G. Cairns-Smith, Genetic Takeover and the Mineral Origins of Life. Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-521-23312-7.
A. G. Cairns-Smith, Seven Clues to the Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story. Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-521-33793-3.
John L. Casti, Alternate Realities: Mathematical Models of Nature and Man. John Wiley & Sons, 1989.
Robert T. Clark and James T. Bales, Why Scientists Accept Evolution. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1966.
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-393-02216-1.
Duane T. Gish, Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record. El Cajon, CA: Creation-Life Publishers (Master Books Division), 1991.
Laurie R. Godfrey (ed.), Scientists Confront Creationism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1983. ISBN 0-393-30154-0.
Roland Mushat Frye (ed.), Is God a Creationist? The Religious Case Against Creation Science. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1983.
Stephen Jay Gould (ed.), The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993. ISBN 0-393-03557-3
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Stephen Jay Gould, An Urchin in the Storm. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-393-30537-6
Liz Rank Hughes (ed.), Reviews of Creationist Books. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Science Education, Inc., 1992. ISBN 0-939-873-52-4.
Thomas Henry Huxley, "Lectures on Evolution" (1876). Reprinted in Agnosticism and Christianity and other essays. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992. ISBN 0-87975-749-3
Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1991. ISBN 0-89526-535-4
D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1980. ISBN 0-8499-2943-1.
Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. University of California Press, 1992.
Ian Plimer, Telling Lies for God. Random House, 1994
Robert Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide To The Creation Of Life On Earth. New York: Bantam, 1986.
George Gaylord Simpson, The Major Features of Evolution. Columbia University Press, 1953.
D. M. S. Watson, "Adaptation," Nature vol. 123, August 10, 1929.