Evolution exams and fossil fallacies
Published: 1 October 2011 (GMT+10)
This week’s correspondence deals with how to answer questions about evolution on exams, and how to spot common evolutionary fallacies based on the fossil record.
L.W. from New Zealand wrote:
I am a Christian teenage girl with strong belief in a young earth and biblical creation. At the moment, I feel pulled from every side to consider evolution. I will be learning about it in school soon and that’s ok but should I answer exam questions from a creation viewpoint or do you think not?
I have been asked to read The God Delusion by an atheist who I spoke to at school. Do you think it is dangerous for me to read it scientifically and consider and weigh up the evidence or should I be more cautious and consider the argument as false from the beginning?
I really need answers because I know the Bible is God’s word. I do not want anything to influence me to desert God in favor of science. I also want to understand science and I can already tell there is very little of this in Dawkins’ book.
yours in Jesus,
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
You should answer the questions as they are given. My colleague Jonathan Sarfati pointed out: “I should point out that we unashamedly advise people to answer exam questions with the answers the lecturers want to hear, rather than risk failing. We advise that if they have the opportunity they preface the answer with ‘most geochronologists believe … ’ or ‘the consensus among zoologists is … ’ so they can give the required answer in good conscience.” See More nonsense from Professor Plimer.
Remember that in such an exam you are being examined on your understanding of the course content, not your ability to refute evolution from a biblical standpoint. I’d certainly advise you to make liberal use of our website to keep things in biblical perspective for yourself. If you come across anything you find difficult, or we haven’t dealt with on our website, you can always send us an email, and we’ll be glad to help out. I heartily recommend that you read Dr Tas Walker’s article ‘How do I do my assignment about evolution?’. Dr Walker went through a secular university, never hid his young-earth beliefs, and still received 1st class honours in geology/radiometric dating.
Regarding reading The God Delusion, you should not be afraid to read it, but don’t read it in isolation of the critiques, such as our review of The God Delusion and the follow–up. Keep in mind Proverbs 18:17 (ESV): “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” In that spirit, I also recommend that you ask your atheist friend if they are willing to read critiques of The God Delusion, or the critique of his subsequent book The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution, namely our The Greatest Hoax on Earth?.
Another thing you could do is show your atheist friend some reviews of the book by critical atheists/agnostics. It was not only Christians and creationists that thought The God Delusion was poor atheist propaganda.
For example, philosopher of evolution Michael Ruse, an agnostic, said this when asked what he thought of The God Delusion:
“I am just as critical of this book as of the work of Intelligent Design authors like Michael Behe, despite the fact that I, as an agnostic, am closer to Dawkins, and am 99% in agreement with his conclusions. But this book is stupid, politically disastrous and bad academics.”1
Literary critic Terry Eagleton, an atheist, said: “Dawkins, it appears, has sometimes been told by theologians that he sets up straw men only to bowl them over, a charge he rebuts in this book; but if The God Delusion is anything to go by, they are absolutely right.”2
If atheists and agnostics think Dawkins’ argument is ridiculous, why should Christians fear it?
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the Bible is not anti-science. You don’t have to choose between the Bible and science. However, you do need to beware of definitions of science that are merely smokescreens used to disparage creation without discussing it—see ‘It’s not science’ and Self-serving SEC definitions of ‘science’. The Bible says that we should “let every matter be established on the testimony of two or more witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1, Deuteronomy 19:15). That, in essence, is what experimental science is, i.e. repeated eyewitness confirmation that e.g. “water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level”. But evolutionists’ claims about past “geological millions of years”, origin of life, etc., are not based on true eyewitness testimony and are therefore speculative. Evolutionary theory can thus be viewed as a claimed ‘history’ masquerading as ‘science’. Furthermore, science itself grew out of a biblical foundation, and was stillborn in cultures like Ancient Greece and China precisely because they lacked this foundation. See The biblical roots of modern science: A Christian world view, and in particular a plain understanding of Scripture and Adam’s Fall, was essential for the rise of modern science.
I hope this helps,
Writer and Editor
Creation Ministries International
L.W. then responded:
Thank very much for all the time you spent answering my questions Mr S. Doyle. It actually came as an answer to prayer, I went to my room and talked to God straight after getting home from school. I was hoping to find a reply to my email.
I checked out Dawkins’ delusion continued and found it very encouraging. I will have to make a point of finding the review mentioned. Thanks very much for all the advice and work you do for the Lord,
K.P. from the United States writes:
I am 42 and a young earth creationist, and have been since my dad had been studying flood data and biblical chronology since I was a kid. My question is, some evolutionists challenged me to find a mammal, or rabbit of sorts that would be mixed together with Jurassic fossils, or pre-Cambrian. I knowing that rabbits wouldn’t hang out with dinosaurs, but it should be plausible that during the flood, that they did wash together in some of the fossil beds found around the globe. Thank you
CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds:
Dear Mr P.
Thank you for your question. Your lifelong studies with your dad are most encouraging to hear about.
To answer this:
First, it is an argument from silence, which is fallacy. I.e. the evolutionist said, in effect, if dinosaurs and rabbits are fossilized together, then they lived together; they are not so fossilized, therefore they didn’t live together.
In formal logical terms, an argument from silence is a type of invalid argument called denying the antecedent (see the explanation in Conditional Statements and Implications). Yet we don’t find coelacanth and whale fossils together, but we know that they live at the same time in the sea today. See for example Correcting the headline: ‘Coelacanth’ yes; ‘Ancient’ no.
Conversely, Darwin admitted that if his theory was true, then there should be “innumerable” in between forms. But these are not found, therefore by his own reasoning, his theory is not true. This is an argument from conspicuous absence. Unlike the argument from silence, this argument in formal logical terms is a valid argument called denying the consequent (see again Conditional Statements and Implications). And we can safely dismiss excuses like “incomplete fossil record”, since the record is remarkably complete—except for the missing intermediates!
Second, we have just the thing they want: finding the Wollemi Pine alive today is “like finding a living dinosaur” (Sensational Australian tree … like ‘finding a live dinosaur’). And we have evidence of large mammals and grass with dinos, just what evolutionists thought could not happen. For example, see ‘Remarkable’ mammal hairs in amber? (which directly answers the challenge) and Grass-eating dinos.
And you might like to subscribe to Creation magazine, if you have not already done so, because the next issue [33(1)] has an article on just this very thing, in principle: pollen grain found in Precambrian rock that is ‘dated’ over a billion years before pollen-producing plants were supposed to have evolved, and was published in Nature.3 [Ed. note: now published: Pollen Paradox: Evolutionists have ‘allergic’ reaction to Precambrian pollen–South American fossils more than a billion years ‘out of date’.]
The discoverer, R. M. Stainforth, an evolutionist, was astonished, and ruled out later contamination:
“The rocks concerned are unquestionably ancient (Precambrian) and are so altered that no organic matter should be recognizable in them. Also they are physically dense, with no obvious routes (such as natural permeability/porosity or crack systems) through which solid particles might enter them. Yet standard palynological techniques recovered well-preserved fossil pollen from the samples!!!”4 [Triple exclamation in original.]
[Ed. note: after this response was written, Creation 33(3) published the article “The so-called ‘age of dinosaurs’” by Calvin Smith. It was written specifically to show that there have been Dinosaurs found with ‘modern type’ creatures like ducks, platypus beavers etc. There has even been a rabbit found that is supposedly 53 MYO but the researcher who found it (Dr Wible) said he wouldn’t be surprised if someone went and found a ‘Cretaceous’ rabbit.5 So informed evolutionists don’t really have a problem with rabbits and dinosaurs coexisting because of the fossil evidence.]
Hope this helps
- Ruse, M., interview with De Volkskrant (Netherlands), p. 7, 7 April 2007, (translated by Frans Gunnink); quoted in: Sarfati, J., Dawkins Delusion (continued), 10 March 2007. Return to text.
- Eagleton, T., Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching, London Review of Books 28(20):32–34, 2006. Return to text.
- Stainforth, R.M. Occurrence of pollen and spores in the Roraima Formation of Venezuela and British Guiana, Nature 210:292–294, 1966. Return to text.
- Chronological listing: annotated publications of R.M. Stainforth. Return to text.
- Handwerk, B., Easter Surprise: World’s Oldest Rabbit Bones Found, National Geographic News, 21 March 2008. Return to text.