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Creationists are slightly bonkers, says award-winning BBC broadcaster

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Published: 15 February 2011(GMT+10)

John Humphrys caricature by Caleb Salisbury

In yet another example of biased broadcasting,1 the BBC’s John Humphrys declared all who doubt the Darwinian paradigm to be a bit crazy. While interviewing two leading ‘evolutionary biologists’, Dr Anjali Goswami of University College London and Professor Scott Armbruster of the University of Portsmouth, he remarked, “We now know that evolution is a fact. Well, I mean there are some slightly bonkers people out there who don’t believe that I suppose. But, nonetheless, we do know that.” Indeed, so confident was he that Darwin had explained how microbes had become man, Humphrys even posed the question, “What else is there to answer?”

Such statements lead the general public to believe that Darwin’s theory has, to any reasonable mind, satisfactorily explained the evolutionary process. In reality, however, even amongst scientists who would describe themselves as evolutionists, many would question this claim. Nobel Prize-winner, Professor Brian Josephson, commented,

“… a crucial part of the argument concerns whether there exists a continuous path, leading from the origins of life to man, each step of which is both favoured by natural selection, and small enough to have happened by chance. It appears to be presented [by some evolutionists] as a matter of logical necessity that such a path exists, but actually there is no such logical necessity… ”2

Scott Gilbert, who is Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology at Swarthmore College, is even more candid:

“… starting in the 1970s, many biologists began questioning its adequacy in explaining evolution. Genetics might be adequate for explaining microevolution, but microevolutionary changes in gene frequency were not seen as able to turn a reptile into a mammal or to convert a fish into an amphibian. Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest. As Goodwin points out, ‘the origins of species—Darwin’s problem—remains unsolved.’ ”3,4

No one has ever shown mathematically, with computer simulations or in any other way, that genetic mutations and natural selection could turn microbes into man. People who believe this, believe it by faith alone.

Professor Stuart Kauffman, who is the leader of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics at the University of Calgary, Canada, also argues that Darwin’s theory is inadequate to explain the evolution of complex organisms. Instead, he suggests that there must be self-organising mechanisms in nature that facilitate the evolutionary process. He freely admits, however, “We have no such framework as yet.”5

No one has ever shown mathematically, with computer simulations or in any other way, that genetic mutations and natural selection could turn microbes into man. People who believe this, believe it by faith alone.

Needless to say, Humphrys received unequivocal support from the two ‘evolutionary scientists’ he was interviewing. Dr Goswami declared evolution to be “the foundation of biology” and Prof. Armbruster praised Darwin as a man capable of “a level of synthesis very few of us would probably be capable today.”

Evolution—the foundation of biology?

It is difficult to take seriously Goswami’s assertion that evolution is the foundation of biology when scientists have such difficulty pointing to scientific breakthroughs that were inspired by a belief in evolution. 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

Was Darwin really a great scientist?

Professor Armbruster’s history appears to be as questionable as Dr. Goswami’s appreciation of the role of evolutionary theory in real, testable science. Anyone who reads Darwin’s writings cannot but be impressed by his attention to detail. Moreover, few would doubt that he documented much evidence that plants and animals can change, and adapt to new environments—facts, of course, which support the biblical view of the natural world, rather than challenge it. However, it is a mistake to claim that Darwin was scientific in his method, as his ‘synthesis’ was demonstrably driven much more by his belief system than by data.

Darwin championed the adage, “Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws”.8 In his thinking, everything he observed and everything studied should be understood as having arisen through natural laws—no supernatural explanation was admissible. Referring to the origin of life in a letter to his friend Joseph Hooker, he wrote that he regretted referring to the biblical concept of “creation” in some earlier editions of his Origin of Species9 as he “really meant ‘appeared’ by some wholly unknown process.”10 But where is the science in this? How can it be scientific to claim that life arose from inanimate matter through natural processes when such processes are unobserved?

Having noted that breeders could produce remarkable differences in pigeons and dogs, Darwin rightly concluded that species were not fixed in their form. However, despite all the experience of the breeders, which indicated that there were strict limits to the extent to which species could be modified by breeding techniques, Darwin blissfully assumed that organisms had virtually unlimited potential for variation. Not only could one breed of dog become another breed of dog, he believed, but a reptile could become a bird and an ape a human. But what data did he have in support of such a view? He knew very well that there were very little from either observations of the living world or the fossil record.11 When challenged about this, he argued that since his opponents could not prove that variation in nature is limited, there was no reason for him to believe that it is!12 But what sort of science is this?

To Darwin, evolution was ‘obvious’ from the study of taxonomy,13 whereas, in fact, orderly patterns in nature can also be interpreted as pointing to a designer. Moreover, Darwin’s definition of homology as “that relation between parts which results from their development from corresponding embryonic parts”14 is just what homology is not: homologous structures not only frequently develop through different embryonic processes, but often develop from different parts of the egg and embryo.15 The evolutionary paradigm appears to have been so strong that it not only dictated his interpretation of data, but also created data itself.

Our new state religion

Darwin’s theory of evolution, so revered by academia in post-Christian Britain … has indeed become part of our new state religion.

That intelligent people like Humphrys, Goswami and Armbruster can make these kinds of statements—despite the stark absence of supporting evidence—makes clear that the general acceptance of evolutionary beliefs has very little to do with science. The words of Edwin G. Conklin, who was Professor of Biology at Princeton University, are as apt today as they were when he penned them around 70 years ago:

“The concept of organic evolution is very highly prized by biologists, for many of whom it is an object of genuinely religious devotion … This is probably the reason why severe methodological criticism employed in other departments of biology has not yet been brought to bear on evolutionary speculation.”16

Darwin’s theory of evolution, so revered by academia in post-Christian Britain, and acknowledged by many as having destroyed so many people’s faith in the Bible, has indeed become part of our new state religion.

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 1 February, 2011. Return to text.
  2. Josephson, B., Science giants do a good job: we’re hooked and keen to learn, The Independent on Sunday, London, UK, 12 January, 1997. Return to text.
  3. Gilbert, Scott et al., Resynthesizing Evolutionary and Developmental Biology, Developmental Biology 173:357’372, 1996. Return to text.
  4. See also Bergmann, J., The century-and-a-half failure in the quest for the source of new genetic information. Return to text.
  5. Kauffman, S., At Home in the Universe. The Search for Laws of Self-Organisation and Complexity, p. 150, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 1995. Return to text.
  6. 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.
  7. Wilkins, A.S., Evolutionary processes: a special issue, BioEssays 22:1051–1052, 2000. Return to text.
  8. Barlow, N. (ed.), The autobiography of Charles Darwin, p. 87, Collins, St James’s Place, London, 1958; darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F1497&viewtype=text&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  9. Darwin, C., On the origin of species, p. 525, third edition, John Murray, London, 1861; darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F381&viewtype=text&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  10. Darwin, C., Letter to Joseph Hooker, 29 March 1863; www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-4065.html. Return to text.
  11. Darwin, C., On the origin of species, pp. 280, 310, first edition, John Murray, London, 1859; darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=side&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  12. Ref. 11, p. 468. darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=side&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  13. Ref. 8, p. 120. darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F1497&viewtype=text&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  14. Darwin, C., On the origin of species, p. 434, sixth edition, John Murray, London, 1872; darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=side&itemID=F391&pageseq=1. Return to text.
  15. Denton, M., Evolution: A theory in crisis, ch. 7, Adler & Adler, Bethesda, Maryland, 1986. Return to text.
  16. Fix, W.R., The Bone Peddlers, p. 211, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1984. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Russell W., Australia, 15 February 2011

Great article. Another case of the BBC’s bigotry. It shows just how religious these scientists are.

Jim M., Japan, 15 February 2011

It really is amazing that these guys can honestly stand up there and make such broad claims. The “evolution is a fact” claim is becoming more incredible every day, harder to believe, and certainly harder to honestly make. At least there are some honest scientists out there like you quoted in the article, who are willing to stand up to the Darwinian bandwagon and honestly evaluate the current state of the evidence for evolution, both pro and con.

What is so troubling about this though is how many people are influenced by these "authorities" to unquestionably believe in evolution.

Donald O., Australia, 15 February 2011

I am constantly amazed that learned men and women would subscribe to a train of thought that repeatedly hits a dead end. (I refer of course to evolution) I certainly endorse and support the work of CMI in their defence of the scriptures, but may I call on all people who revere JESUS as lord, to pray for those who seek to systematically destroy the Christian faith. I believe they will not, and can not succeed, and struggle to find or feel any compassion in the arguments that they put forth, but compassion compels me to pray that the eyes of their understanding will be opened. Keep up the good work CMI, and praise GOD that you exist to bring glory to GOD.

Kevin B., Canada, 15 February 2011

Blind faith beliefs. It is indeed, very much a religion. I guess you could call them fideists.

For some, its a misplaced trust in people who are of authority and/or “credibility”. They assume that what “scientists” say, must be true. The majority, must be correct. They surely wouldn’t lie. If they did lie, the media would be quick to expose them and it would be a major scandal.

These are people who just don’t understand how deep in sin this world is.

I once believed that the world was largely good with some evil. Now I see very little good in a world deep in sin. Most of what I see on TV, magazines, media, radio and culture.

I guess that’s the difference a world view does.

For others however, its a flat out denial and rejection of the living God. Its more anti-God than atheist. Either way, its certainly not scientific.

This is a great article to add the arsenal. Its articles like this I refer to when seeking quotes from “scientists” regarding the flimsy evolutionary theory. Since evolutionists tend not to listen to what creationists and creationist scientists say, then perhaps they will listen to their own.

Tim W., United Kingdom, 15 February 2011

Humphrys is a fool, and I use that term deliberately as his ignorance is quite wilful and entirely self-inflicted. He claims to have looked into Christianity with an open mind, but is still stuck on the apparent “contradictions” between Gospel accounts. He obviously hasn’t tried very hard as this is first-year stuff and very easy to get a handle on with just a little thought, plus a discarding of the chronological and cultural snobbery of a 21st-century western mindset. I imagine that if the Gospel accounts were identical, as he seems to want, he’d be crying conspiracy, so we can’t win either way!

His comments on those who question evolution (and no doubt he hasn’t the remotest clue about the difference between observed natural selection and hypothesised amoeba-to-atheist evolution) are therefore those of a typical pseudo-intellectual who ultimately just swallows whole the simplistic interpretations of the popular science press. Shame on him-especially given his “grand inquisitor” status on the “Today” programme.

Louis K., South Africa, 15 February 2011

I think that the journalist was only half right. Creationists are not “slightly bonkers”; they are completely crazy. I also think that “creationism” is not only pseudoscience, but shouldn’t even have the word “science” associated with it in any form. It should just be called “fundamentalist religion”.

The editor responds

So, creationists are “crazy”. Let’s examine your claim. Major dictionary definitions for this word include: ‘mentally deranged’; ‘demented’; ‘insane’. Since, it is clear that these descriptions cannot honestly be applied to persons in a state of mental health, your statement is revealed to be nothing more than name-calling. And in my experience, name-calling is usually something that people engage in when they lack sound arguments to support their own position.

It seems to me that it’s your last comment that really gives the game away; you have a hang-up with the fact that religious people believe things that you don’t. Have you ever considered, however, just how many things, you yourself believe on the basis of faith? Oh, you may not call it faith, but each time an evolutionist makes a claim about origins for which there is no empirical scientific evidence that’s exactly what it is. One cannot observe past events happening and one can only perform experiments in the present world. I am reminded of the words penned by Peter Bowler (until his recent retirement, evolutionist and respected science historian at Queens University Belfast) in his review of a book by Henry Gee (Senior Editor of the journal Nature): In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life. Henry Gee. Free Press, 1999. $26.

Bowler was discussing the limitations of the evolutionary reasoning (emphasis mine):

“We cannot identify ancestors or “missing links,” and we cannot devise testable theories to explain how particular episodes of evolution came about. Gee is adamant that all the popular stories about how the first amphibians conquered the dry land, how the birds developed wings and feathers for flying, how the dinosaurs went extinct and how humans evolved from apes are just products of our imagination driven by prejudices and preconceptions. They reflect our modern ideas about the purposes of adaptive structures and about the progressive trend we think we see in the history of life up to humankind. They cannot be part of science because they cannot be tested against the fossil record.”

This quote is available on the American Scientist website.

To brand everything that a creationist believes and teaches as “pseudoscience” is intellectually lazy, precisely because there is no attempt to even engage with the many scientific arguments that we espouse—of which this website is replete.

Sincerely,

Philip Bell

Louis K., South Africa replied a second time, 23 February 2011

Dear Mr. Bell

Thanks for answering my e-mail.

All those dictionary definitions apply to everyone who denies reality. That’s what creationists do. Therefore the word crazy does describe Young Earth Creationists very accurately.

I see you do what creationists love doing: quote-mining. Every single creationist quote has been proved to be either taken out of context or a blatant lie or not what the quote seems to be. In this case a quote from a historian on what he thinks a real scientist means to say. Luckily for us, however, science does not work with quotes from “authorities”. It works on research and, very importantly, convincing the scientific community that your conclusions accurately reflect and explain all the available verifiable evidence.

If, however, you want to start playing the “quoting” game, I literally have a million trained scientists, with real Ph.D. degrees in the earth and life sciences, from all over the world, who studied parts of the Theory of Evolution and who accepted the evidence for it, who I can quote. Are you sure you want to play that game?

Speaking of authorities, Bowler is a historian, is not an evolutionary biologist, therefore not an “evolutionist” and certainly not any type natural scientist at all. Why would I want to pay any attention to him and not to all those hundreds of thousands of real biologists and paleontologists who actually know something about the Theory of Evolution?

Anyway, I will analyze the quote-mine (remember, it is not a quote from a real evolutionary biologist or paleontologist, but the quote is on what a historian thinks a real scientist means to say):

“We cannot identify ancestors……” Of course not, the scientific method attempts to give the most plausible explanation given the current evidence.

“…. or “missing links,” We certainly can identify transitional fossils. We have thousands of them and discover more of them every single day.

“…. and we cannot devise testable theories to explain how particular episodes of evolution came about…..” Yes we can. Ever heard of research?

“…..Gee is adamant that all the popular stories about how the first amphibians conquered the dry land,…..” We do have rather excellent fossil evidence that it did happen.

“… how the birds developed wings and feathers for flying,” Again we have fossil evidence explaining nicely how it happened. We even have living animals highlighting the “how”. Feathers developed well before birds. Did you know that we have fossils of dinosaurs with feathers?

“… how the dinosaurs went extinct…” Again we have the evidence that it did happen. All those rocks tell a story. Ever heard of what a meteorite can do to earth and life on earth if it hits? Do you know what evidence we have for that particular meteorite hitting earth at that stage? (May I also remind you that meteorites hitting the earth is geology, not evolution. The meteorite had an influence on what organisms would succumb).

“… and how humans evolved from apes …” We have rather remarkable fossil evidence showing a whole series of transitional fossils.

“….are just products of our imagination driven by prejudices and preconceptions. “ Luckily they are the “products of our imagination driven by prejudices and preconceptions” of hundreds of thousands of trained scientists doing research and also hard work on the subject, following the scientific method, jealously checking on each other and all coming to the same conclusion: Evolution happened!

“…They reflect our modern ideas about the purposes of adaptive structures and about the progressive trend we think we see in the history of life up to humankind.” That’s where he is completely wrong. We don’t think we see it, we actually do see it in the empirical verifiable evidence we find in the rocks. All in the rocks. From no life at the bottom to unicellular life to multicellular life to vertebrates to tetrapods to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to modern organisms at the top. All in those rocks in a very tidy pattern. Not one single piece of contradictory evidence. No interpretation necessary to know that evolution happened in the past.

“… They cannot be part of science because they cannot be tested against the fossil record.” Wrong again. We can and we do test them against the fossil record. What does he think the word “research” means?

Also, don’t project your way of doing things, “faith”, on other people. Society has advanced well past the stage of “faith”. Society nowadays does actions based on evidence. If the evidence is verifiable, it is accepted. If it is bad or not verifiable, it is rejected. There are mountains of very good evidence for evolution. That’s why I accept the Theory of Evolution and reject creationism. Creationists don’t have one single shred of verifiable evidence for “creation”, but just use faith. That’s a sure way of putting humanity back well into the dark ages.

Luckily for us, past events leave physical evidence and can be studied. As an example, the atoms on earth were formed in the past and can be studied. Do you reject atomic theory as well? The gravity theory? The germ theory? It won’t surprise me if you do. Fossils sure are verifiable empirical scientific evidence. They can be observed, studied and even measured! And they can fit into a theory or falsify a theory. Guess what, every single fossil we’ve found so far fits nicely into the Theory of Evolution. It fits so well that we can actually predict in which rocks we’ll find certain transitional fossils. Every fossil also falsifies a creation in 6 days.

Lastly, creationism is pseudoscience, because it does not follow the scientific method, but does the exact opposite. Creationists read an old book, declare it the real truth, take the book’s conclusion and then start looking for evidence to fit into your conclusion. In the “process” they ignore the mountains of evidence falsifying their preconceived conclusion. That’s the exact opposite of the scientific method, where the evidence is observed first and the conclusion drawn last. That’s also why creationists can’t have any “scientific” arguments. They don’t do any science at all.

I trust that this letter, as well as my previous letters, will be published on your website, or do you censor people disagreeing with you?

Sincerely

Louis

Philip Bell responds

25 February 2011

Dear Louis,

Re: your quote-mining charge, you have entirely missed the point of that quotation by Bowler. He was telling his readers what Henry Gee believes and teaches, not what his own beliefs are. Moreover, this appeared in the American Scientist, not the transactions of some historical journal.

I am not going to spill ink on answering each of your many points as there seems little point in us arguing the toss ad infinitum. Frankly, you really don’t seem to be open-minded to reasonable arguments that creation-believing scientists would have to offer.

I used to be an evolutionist myself so I know well the biases and prejudices that someone with that mindset/worldview has. Moreover, having worked in scientific research myself, I am thoroughly familiar with the way science works. I have to say that most scientists—those not blinded by an a priori adherence to the absolute of materialism (including both philosophical and methodological naturalism)—are far more measured in their claims than you seem to be. For instance, when you say: Guess what, every single fossil we’ve found so far fits nicely into the Theory of Evolution. It fits so well that we can actually predict in which rocks we’ll find certain transitional fossils. Every fossil also falsifies a creation in 6 days. you show a distinct lack of objectivity, something essential to the empirical science that you profess to prize. I have read far too much palaeontology over the last few decades (not to mention that I studied it at university and continue to get out into the field myself even now) than to believe that every fossil fits nicely with evolution—or to believe that most evolutionists would claim that they do. Rather, most palaeontologists are far too candid and honest about their field of science than you claim. Take Henry Gee again, in a podcast in Nature just last week (quoted in: Katherine Harmon, Was “Ardi” not a human ancestor after all? New review raises doubts, website of Scientific American, 16 February):

“Fossils don’t come with their birth certificates attached…”

In case you don’t know, as well as being editor of Nature, Gee is no ignoramus when it comes to the discipline of palaeoanthropology (having written extensively on it in the past). And I think you’ll agree that his credentials cannot easily be called into question!

One final point before I close. You said, Do you reject atomic theory as well? The gravity theory? The germ theory? It won’t surprise me if you do. No, not at all. And if you had even spent a few minutes reading what I and my colleagues actually teach you would know the answer to your question. But, would it really make any difference to you if I was to list the many scientists (yes, with PhDs and professorships at leading universities, not diploma mills) who, as creationists, work in these fields? Rather, you are likely to hold the opinion that they’re disqualified as scientists by virtue of the fact that they’re creationists. Yet, on the contrary, creationist/intelligent design thinking can actually (and does demonstrably) inform the very best research that there is.

Most recently, Professor Andy McIntosh’s team at Leeds university (led by him and with his inspiration coming from his evangelical Christian faith in a God who is the Supreme, Master Designer) have done ground-breaking work on the explosive mechanism in the Bombardier Beetle, for which they have won the coveted Times Higher Educational 2010 Innovation and Technology award last November. You can check this out for yourself here:

Now, compare the foregoing with your claims here:

Lastly, creationism is pseudoscience, because it does not follow the scientific method, but does the exact opposite. Creationists read an old book, declare it the real truth, take the book’s conclusion and then start looking for evidence to fit into your conclusion. In the “process” they ignore the mountains of evidence falsifying their preconceived conclusion. That’s the exact opposite of the scientific method, where the evidence is observed first and the conclusion drawn last. That’s also why creationists can’t have any “scientific” arguments. They don’t do any science at all.

Are you prepared to label the above research pseudoscience because the prof who led the group is an avowed creationist? Does he not believe in and value the scientific method? Is your claim that people like him “don’t do any science at all” really anything more than hot air? I regret that I see no point in you and I continuing in a protracted argument over our strongly-held opposing views. In due course, this exchange will be posted for the benefit of other readers because, no, contrary to your insinuations, we do not engage in censorship of those who disagree with us. What we do look for is a proper engagement with the arguments we have made, as a precondition to dialogue. Incidentally, if you want to know where censorship occurs, use the search engine on our website and take an honest look at the lengths to which evolutionists sometimes go to censor anyone who even questions the ‘sacred cow’ which is the evolutionary paradigm. The shoe is firmly on the other foot, I can assure you. You should read Slaughter of the Dissidents (available on our webstore) or watch the movie/documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (itself the subject of some people’s attempted bans!).

Sincerely,

Philip

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