Does CMI misrepresent evolution?
Published: 25 March 2012(GMT+10)
Photo by George Joch / courtesy Argonne National Laboratory
If evolution is taught in science classes, students should be allowed to hear about the serious scientific problems with the theory.
For the most part, CMI writers seem to be in agreement with this statement [that we should keep religion out of science classes].
Although some creationists advocate something different altogether: separation of school and state.
They claim, however, that evolutionary theory does not qualify as ‘science’ and therefore should also be ousted from the public, secular school curriculum.
Since the theory of evolution exists and is believed by many people, it would seem inappropriate for students to leave school without knowing about it. Moreover, we have no problem with the teaching of natural selection and speciation in science classes, as these are well supported by observational evidence. Since there is no evidence that ordinary chemicals can evolve into living organisms or that apes can evolve into people, my view is that the theory of evolution should be taught in religious education or general studies classes.
If it is taught in science classes, it should be discussed in a balanced way. This would require that the students be allowed to hear of the considerable scientific problems with evolution theory as well as the evidence that supposedly supports it. Moreover, alternative views of origins, together with the scientific evidence for and against them, should also be presented.
The late Professor G.A. Kerkut, an evolutionist and physiologist of Southampton University, challenged students to try to come up with scientific arguments against evolution. Most could not, and Kerkut argued that this is a deficiency, because if you “really understand an argument you will be able to indicate to me not only the points in favour of the argument but also the most telling points against it.” Conversely, a student who “repeats parrot fashion the views of the current Archbishop of Evolution” is really “behaving like certain of those religious students he affects to despise.”1
It’s notable that evolutionary immunologist Scott Todd of Kansas State University agrees:
Additionally, one must question the interpretations of the observed phenomena and discuss the weaknesses of the model. Honest scientists are far more inspiring than defensive ones who scoff arrogantly at the masses and fear that discussing the problems of macro-evolutionary theory will weaken general acceptance of it. On the other hand, free debate is more likely to encourage the curious to seek solutions.2
But most evolutionists, of course, would fight tooth and nail to prevent this as it would cause many students to reject evolution as they realize how poorly the data fit the theory. The leading American advocate of evolution-only teaching (and now global-warming-alarmism–only teaching), atheist Eugenie Scott, admitted:
In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.
It seems to me that writers here all have this vision of hardcore atheist science teachers indoctrinating eighth graders with their views on an infallible theory of evolution. In my experience, however, lectures on evolution (excluding those in University) were always preceded by a comment along the lines of: “this is one theory that some people adopt, but there are many others”.
Your own educational experiences may well have been balanced as you say. However, this is often not the case. Moreover, why should it be any different in universities? Of all places, these should encourage critical thinking—and, as many articles on our website make clear, there’s plenty to be critical about when it comes to theories of evolution!
I fail to see how creationists can expect much more than this within the confines of the science classroom. Obviously, the content on this website makes the theory of evolution seem to be rife with suppositions, shoddy ‘science’ and, in the extreme case, simple lies. However, is this really the case?
Have you ever asked yourself why prominent evolutionists like Richard Dawkins now refuse to publicly debate creationists?
Yes it is. Have you ever asked yourself why prominent evolutionists like Richard Dawkins now refuse to publicly debate creationists (see World atheist convention rejects Australian creationist debate challenge)? Why, if the science so clearly supports their view, do evolutionists not jump at the opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of their position and the alleged pseudoscience of their opponents?
The amount of supporting evidence for evolution that is omitted in many articles is shocking.
I would be very grateful if you could provide an example. I have come to the conclusion that the theory of evolution is like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone was telling everyone else that the emperor was finely dressed when, in fact, he had no fine clothes on at all. Similarly everyone is telling everyone else that Darwin’s theory is well supported by science; but none of the people I speak to seems to know what that science is.
One example that comes to mind is the great expert on ancient birds, Alan Feduccia, now Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, and an insightful skeptic of the dino-to-bird dogma. When given a chance to present evidence for evolution, he didn’t choose his own field, but corn changing into corn!
If one used CMI as their only source of information on evolution, I believe that they would only have a fractional idea of what the theory actually entails. The outrage that many readers express towards the teaching of evolution in science classes is very understandable considering the way it’s portrayed here.
We deliberately look for the best arguments for evolution so as to be able to address these in our publications. For example, we responded point by point to the National Academy of Sciences educator’s guidebook here, to a major PBS TV series here, and to leading evolutionist Richard Dawkins here. Conversely, many of our opponents knock down straw man versions of creation, rather than address arguments presented by informed creation scientists.
By doing some checks, however, I’ve noticed that many secular scientific publications are twisted and misquoted by CMI’s scientists so that they may be seen to support creation.
Again, could you please provide some examples? Please also note that the fallacy of quoting out-of-context lies not in taking parts from a whole, but in removing parts in such a way that the whole is misrepresented by the extracted parts.
In many cases, the conclusions that CMI writers draw from a particular scientific journal or article are completely opposite to those drawn by the scientist or scientists who actually completed the experiment.
Usually, where this is the case, it will be because we disagree with how the data have been interpreted. Data do not speak for themselves. At other times, we make clear that the scientists quoted believe in evolution and we are using them as ‘hostile witnesses’ against one particular evolutionary ‘proof’.
In some cases, particularly those pertaining to genetics and astrophysics, it seems that CMI writers are purposely conveying information in the most complex and convoluted method possible. I hate to think that the purpose of this might be to intentionally ‘lose’ the average reader, thus making it easier for them to accept the often bizarre conclusions that are, very simply, stated. I hope that this isn’t the case.
Most of our articles are written for the layman—see, for example, our Creation magazine. Many of these can be viewed a year or so later as web articles too. In my experience, these articles often go to considerable lengths to explain the basics clearly. After all, we want our work to be understood, so our readers can pass this information on; trying to lose our readers would be counter-productive. However, we also have a technical publication, Journal of Creation, which is written for people with a higher level of scientific knowledge. It appears that you’ve only viewed the more technical articles.
As things stand already, I’d like to see CMI writers being more responsible with their assertions. I realize that this is a creation oriented website, but I can’t seem to think that CMI articles simultaneously claim to be presenting solid science while ignoring the foundations of the scientific method.
Moreover, it is surely the evolutionists who have abandoned the normal scientific method. Generally, scientists are encouraged to make clear, testable statements—indeed it might be argued that, unless a statement can be tested, it is doubtful whether it has a place in science at all. Testability, however, is hard to detect in evolution theory. Distinguished chemist, the late Professor Philip Skell argued,
‘… Darwinian explanations … are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.’3
This disregard for the need for testability has reduced the theory of evolution to a series of just-so stories rather than a scientific discipline.
This disregard for the need for testability has reduced the theory of evolution to a series of just-so stories rather than a scientific discipline. See also here.
Ideally, these articles should be vetted by other scientists outside of CMI before publication
I am not aware of evolutionists asking non-evolutionists for reviews of their articles; perhaps for the sake of consistency, you should write to them advocating this.
(as is the case with standard peer-reviewed scientific articles).
See also Creationism, science and peer review.
Science is fallible. Error and revision is one of the cornerstones of the scientific method. Classical Newtonian mechanics gave way to relativity and quantum dynamics, etc. As this is the case, any scientific theory can and should be reviewed with scepticism. I think, then, that the holes that CMI poke in evolution could equally be poked in any other scientific theory. Indeed, I think they would have been if other areas were as counter-creation in their conclusions. Does this mean we should disregard all science?
As we’ve argued many times, and as I wrote here, it is important to distinguish between operational (or experimental) science and historical (or forensic) science. Operational science, essentially, relates to knowledge of how the world works, and is gained by observation in the present. Hypotheses are proposed to explain data and then tested, often in a laboratory. Only those hypotheses that are shown to fit the data when rigorously tested, again and again, are deemed to be scientific. Historical (or forensic) science is very different. Beliefs about how Earth formed or how life began cannot be tested in a laboratory. This kind of ‘science’ is much more like that practised by a detective who collects clues in order to solve a crime—although it is much more difficult than this. The detective is dealing with events that occurred recently and often receives help from eye-witnesses; there are no human eye-witnesses to testify to the events surrounding the origin of the earth and its plants and animals.
Pythagoras’ equation for calculating the lengths of right-angled triangles has been taught in schools now for many years. Similarly, Boyle’s law describing the behaviour of gases is the same today as when he first stated it, as are Newton’s laws of motion. They have not changed because they were right or required only qualification when they were originally formulated. (Newton’s laws, for example, work well at the scales and speeds of everyday life.) This is one of the characteristics of operational science, the sort of science which employs a rigorous scientific methodology, and is based on repeatable experiments. When theories change significantly from one decade to another, as is the case with evolution, this indicates that they were never based upon that sort of science or that type of scientific methodology in the first place.
The geologist Professor Derek Ager remarked,
“It must be significant that nearly all the evolutionary stories I learned as a student … have now been ‘debunked’.”4
Similarly, the biologist Professor William Provine wrote,
“Most of what I learned of the field [of evolutionary biology] in graduate (1964–68) school is either wrong or significantly changed.”5
Evolution is a pillar of biology; can it really be excluded from a science classroom?
This is a statement that we hear repeatedly. It is, however, always unsubstantiated and contrary to the facts. Dr. Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, remarked,
“In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”6
Similarly, the editor of the Journal, BioEssays, wrote
“The subject of evolution occupies a special, and paradoxical, place within biology as a whole. While the great majority [of] biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. ‘Evolution’ would appear to be the indispensible unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one.”7
Should we disregard geology since striations and rock layers suggest tens of thousands of years?
Striations are often attributed to ancient glaciations, where glaciers trap rocks and tear grooves in the underlying rock as they move slowly, like giant sandpaper. But during the eruption of Mt St Helens in Washington State, USA, 1980, “Grooves and striations were formed on solid bedrock by avalanche and ‘blast clouds’ that tore loose boulders and dragged them with great force across the exposed rock.”
Nor do rock layers necessary indicate tens of thousands of years. See, for example, here and here. (Other helpful articles can be found here.) Interestingly, the lack of erosion between rock strata provides strong evidence that the sedimentary rocks are not millions of years old—see here.
Should chemistry be disbanded since radiometric dating suggests millions?
There are many serious problems with radiometric dating. Moreover, some ‘radiometric dating’ indicates that the earth is very young. See here.
Should astronomy be revised since galactic radii are on the order of hundreds of thousands of light years, and appear even further from earth yet are still visible?
There are some very plausible explanations as to how we can see distant starlight despite the earth being young. See, for example, here.
Should the mathematics be ignored that show how, as the number of dynamic particles approach infinity, the collision geometry that forms biological molecules becomes a probable occurrence?
If there are many water molecules around, then the big biomolecules will be broken up by hydrolysis, a huge problem for chemical evolution.
Should physics be altered since quantum dynamics demonstrates how particles can simply pop into existence through a combination of imaginary pairs and an event horizon?
As my colleague, Dr Jonathan Sarfati points out, this ‘Hawking radiation’ is not creating something from nothing. Rather, the uncertainty principle prevents us knowing energy and time totally precisely (ΔEΔt ≥ h/4π). So it allows a pair of particles to pop into existence briefly, but the more massive the particle, the less time it can appear. (In a recent article in our Creation magazine—and on our website—we explained that, if a universe did pop into existence by quantum fluctuation, nobody would notice as the lifetime of a quantum event the size of our universe would be less than 10–103 seconds.8 In the case you mentioned, if this particle/antiparticle pair appeared near a black hole’s event horizon, one might escape while the other has negative energy (as measured by an outside observer) and falls in. Thus the outsider sees that the black hole has emitted a particle, but it’s not free—the black hole has lost that same amount of mass. This was actually one of Hawking’s main contributions to theoretical physics: that a black hole was not totally ‘black’ and thus not indefinitely stable.
Should theoretical physics be contraband within a science classroom since it states that time diverges with regard to singularities, and hence, a compressed universe does not necessarily have a beginning?
These are heavy questions, and I don’t know the answers. All the bases for these queries are uncertain and up for debate, as is evolution.
But that’s what science is after all. Calling for evolution to be omitted from a science classroom because it’s a position of faith is ridiculous since science is, by definition, a position of faith. True, science must be backed up by a significant amount of evidence, but in the end nothing can be absolutely proven. One must make the jump to their beliefs through faith. This is true of all things I think.
I don’t think many scientists would say that they accept Newton’s laws of motion or Ohm’s law of electricity or Boyle’s law of gasses by faith. They accept them because every time an experiment is done to verify them, they are found to be true. In stark contrast to this, evolutionary ideas, such as abiogenesis (chemical evolution), require a great deal of (blind) faith because they are contrary to known science—every time experiments are done in this field, they indicate that the molecules needed for life would never form.
Since society is a mix of both atheist and religious people, I think that religious studies should be introduced into the curriculum alongside science.
My preference would be to remove all discussion of origins from science classes. There’s so much useful science that the students can learn, it seems a pity to waste their time on speculative ideas that will probably be totally different in twenty years time. Views about origins could be dealt with in religious education or general studies classes.
Of course, it would have to be a general study course, and not focus on Christianity in particular.
This sounds like another secularist attempt to marginalise Christianity. It seems reasonable to me that, in your country (Canada), it would be very appropriate to focus on the biblical view of origins, as Christianity is the historic/majority faith.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read through this. It grew far more long-winded than I would have hoped, for your sake.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us.
- Kerkut, G.A., Implications of evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, 1960. Return to text.
- Todd, S.C., correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999. Return to text.
- Skell, P., ‘Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology’, The Scientist 19(16):10, 29 August 2005. Return to text.
- Ager, D.V, The Nature of the Fossil Record, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 87(2):131–160, 1976. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., A Review of Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy of Sciences, 18 Feb 1999; http://web.archive.org/web/20040709130607/fp.bio.utk.edu/darwin/NAS_guidebook/provine_1.html, last accessed 12 March, 2012. Return to text.
- Dizikes, P., Missing Links, Boston Globe, 23 October 2005. Emphasis added. www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/10/23/missing_links/?page=1, last accessed 7 February, 2011. Return to text.
- Wilkins, A.S., Evolutionary processes: a special issue, BioEssays 22:1051–1052, 2000. Emphasis added. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., Curiosity: Did God create the universe?, Creation 34(2):44–46, 2012. Return to text.