Friday, September 12, 2008

Creation Moments

Anonymous has left a comment on the "Sarah Palin and Creationism" post. Next time I am not going to post something unless they are willing to identify themselves. It is like knocking on someone's door with a bag over your head. Anyway, he/she lists several links in the comment which I would like to address. The first one is to a page called "Teaching Evolution: Is there a Better way?" The opening paragraph states:

Today's public school textbooks on Biology, Earth sciences, and Human society generally well-present the facts; it is the interpretation of those facts that is currently under fire and is being openly questioned. Without exception, that interpretation is from the evolutionary perspective and serves to colour the very words that are used in the text. Textbooks on Human anthropology are notoriously bad in this repect [sic].

Currently under fire and openly questioned? Other than the ICR and like organizations, who is doing the questioning? How are textbooks on human anthropology (I assume they mean human palaeontology) notoriously bad in this regard? Mr. Taylor does not say. A bit later, he writes:

For example, the octopus eye and the human eye are very similar yet these are not regarded as homologous because the octopus and the human are not believed to have a common ancestor. But, having decided that two similar-looking limbs are homologous, it is then argued that this similarity proves their common ancestry! This is nothing more than circular reasoning.

How is this circular reasoning? The reason they are homologous is that they are made up of the same anatomical parts and embryologic studies show that they develop the same way. Structures are analogous if they do not derive from the same anatomical parts. That is evolution 101. This passage shows that Mr. Taylor knows little about how homology works.

In the second link, Should Evolution be Immune from Criticism?, the author David Buckna, writes:

One popular biology textbook used in public schools is "Inquiry Into Life" by Sylvia Mader, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. On page 529 (eighth edition) are diagrams of giraffes which compare Lamarck's theory and Darwin's theory. According to Darwin, "Early giraffes probably had necks of various lengths. Natural selection due to competition led to survival of the longer-necked giraffes and their offspring. Eventually, only long-necked giraffes survived the competition."

Regarding giraffes, shouldn't students be taught to distinguish between fact and speculation? No fossil evidence has ever been unearthed showing giraffes with shorter necks.

Yeah it has. Here is a pair of articles detailing it. Here is another comment:

It's certainly easy enough for evolutionists to pick out something and call it a "giraffe" and thus generate an ancestor for giraffes. Carroll illustrates a marvelous example of how other ancestors are generated: He suggested that the wolf-like Mesonychus (which he believes was the terrestrial ancestor of whales) should be placed in the Order Cetacea. Since the Order Cetacea is reserved for whales, presto! Mesonychids are whales!

This is just silly. Mesonychus has characteristics in the inner ear and orbital construction that are similar to whales to the exclusion of other animals. That is why researchers draw similarities.

I would comment on the third article but it couldn't be found on the link provided and I don't have time to go hunting for it. The fourth article, Teaching Origins in Public Schools takes a different approach: teach evolution and then pick out the holes in it. He then lists several criticism of evolution that would come out during teaching. I don't have time to go through them all but, for example, he writes:

Evolution is necessarily speculative:

Every science is necessarily speculative. That is how science proceeds, by speculation and then hypothetical testing. This is a non-criticism.

It behooves the teacher to fairly distinguish fact from speculation in any discussion of evolution as this will not always be obvious to the student. Even the term "theory" ought to be strictly limited to those hypotheses which are subject to the scientific method and thus are capable of being disproven by a critical experiment.

This shows a lack of understanding of what a theory is and how it is differentiated from a hypothesis. A theory is a broad statement of relationships about a particular set of phenomena. Quantum theory and gravitational theory are classic examples. A hypothesis is simply a test of a particular question that falls within that overall theoretical construct.

Evolution seems incompatible with the second law of thermodynamics:

Perhaps the reason that there is so little compelling scientific evidence in support of evolution is that it appears to contradict one of the most fundamental laws of nature - the second law of thermodynamics. This law says what is intuitively obvious to most people, that all real processes tend toward a condition of greater probability and disorder. Thus a house is more likely to spontaneously disassemble over a period of a thousand years than it is to assemble itself into an even more complex and more highly organized structure. Order can be achieved out of disorder, but it requires information, programs, energy and machines. Energy from the sun can help to transform an acorn into an oak tree but it requires the indescribably complex biological machinery and information in the living cells of the acorn to do it. Dead oak trees are destroyed by the same energy from the sun.

It is also intuitively obvious that, were the sun to simply disappear, we would survive about a day. Kelvin made his statements in the 1870s before anyone was aware that radioactivity was what was responsible for the internal heating of the earth and it was not until Einstein came along that we had some idea of why the sun has burned as long as it has (Harter 2005).

The other examples betray evidence of quote mining. This is the trick of misquoting authors to get them to say what you want them to say. There is a great page on TalkOrigins that lists the most egregious examples. So, once again, it is a case of creationist' half-truths, quote mines and out-dated information that has become standard and reveals, again, why no one in the scientific community takes them seriously.

I obviously didn't take time to address all of the concerns of anonymous but if you do a peripheral search of the literature, all of the comments made in the articles have been repeatedly rebutted in different places. Go to Talk Origins for good bibliographies of these.


  1. That 1991 piece by Menton is awful, even for 1991.

  2. It is certainly the most intellectually dishonest of the group. The other pieces are just ignorant.