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David Attenborough: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life

As Australian TV Channel 1 re-ran Sir David Attenborough’s program Darwin and the Tree of Life on 3 May 2018, we re-present our response, originally published 15 October 2015. 

tree-of-life

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First published: 15 October 2015 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 8 May 2018 (GMT+10)

This is a TV program and DVD produced by the BBC to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (1809–1882).1 It is presented by Sir David Attenborough, who follows in the footsteps of his bicentennial mentor by rejecting the truth of the Genesis account of creation and seeking to promote, albeit unsuccessfully, the atheistic theory of evolution.

Sir David begins by telling viewers: “Our Earth is the only known planet that sustains life, and it does so in abundance. … The sheer number and variety of animals and plants is astonishing. … Nobody knows how many different kinds of animals there are here”. Then, reading from a copy of the Bible, he summarizes the events of Creation Week in Genesis Chapter 1 thus:

This book, the Holy Bible, explains how this wonderful diversity came about. On the third day after the creation of the world, God created plants. On the fifth day fish and birds, and then on the sixth day mammals, and finally man. That explanation was believed literally by pretty well the whole of Western Europe for the best part of 2,000 years. … And when God had finished, He said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” [Genesis 1:28]

So far totally correct. However, he continues: “That made it clear that, according to the Bible, humanity could exploit the natural world as they wished.”

Not so. God gave the ‘dominion mandate’ of Genesis 1:28 to the first humans, Adam and Eve, after He had created them both “in His image” (Genesis 1:26). Man was thus appointed to be God’s ‘regent’ on Earth. The first two tasks God gave His regent were to care for His creation, namely to cultivate the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15) and to name the animals (Genesis 2:19).

Man, in turn, both then and now, is under the dominion of God, so we too have the continuing task of caring for God’s creation. Indeed, over the centuries, fulfilment of the dominion mandate has been a major motivation for many engaged in exploration, discovery, and scientific research. This has included the unearthing of more efficient means of agriculture, as well as the preservation and dissemination of information elucidated.

Conversely, if Attenborough were right, then why should we not exploit nature consistent with ‘survival of the fittest’? See:

Darwin’s finches—not evidence for evolution

Charles-Darwin
Charles Darwin, aged 31

Attenborough introduces viewers to Charles Darwin, home from his Beagle voyage, pondering on the concept that only the fittest survive, and then says: “He called the process ‘natural selection’. That would explain the differences that he had noted in the finches that he had brought back from the Galápagos.”

Not correct on two counts:

  1. Darwin did not originate the term ‘natural selection’. Several writers had previously used the term or the concept, including the creationist chemist/zoologist Edward Blyth (1810–1873), who correctly saw the concept as a preservative force that eliminated the unfit, over 20 years before Darwin misappropriated it to support evolution. See Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild.
  2. Darwin did not note any differences in the finches he collected in the Galápagos Islands, as his biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore point out. They wrote:

In all, he [Darwin] shot six types of finches from three islands, and his samples from two of these were mixed together. … he had tagged his specimens in a desultory manner and had rarely bothered to label by island. It had not seemed important.2

He remained confused by the Galápagos finches, believing that they fed indiscriminately together, unaware of the importance of their different beaks. Come to that, he still had trouble identifying the species, or their locations; and he still thought that his collection contained finches, wrens, ‘Grossbeaks’, and ‘Icteruses’ (blackbird-relatives). He had no sense of a single, closely related group becoming specialized and adapted to different environmental niches. The birds did not seem that important when he donated them to the Zoological Society, rather badly labelled, on the 4th [January 1837].3

The expert he turned them over to was the ornithologist, artist, and taxidermist John Gould, who quickly realized that Darwin’s Galápagos birds were all finches. Even then this fact meant nothing to Darwin. His only mention of them is in his 1845 Journal of the voyage of the Beagle.4 He does not refer to the Galápagos finches by name even once in any of the six editions of his Origin of Species.5

Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches, 1845, p. 379.finches
Contrary to popular misconception, Darwin did not regard the Galápagos finches, with their differing beaks, as evidence for evolution.

Desmond and Moore also wrote:

Admittedly he now [in his Journal] illustrated the various types, showing their range of beaks. “Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds,” he hinted, “one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.” It was a broad clue, and as much as he would ever say on finch evolution.6 (Desmond’s and Moore’s words, emphasis added.)

However, this is what biblical creationists (both before and after Darwin) believe happened, not as the result of evolution but as a consequence of Noah’s Flood and the subsequent migration of animals (including birds) via continents and islands, following their disembarkation from the Ark on the mountains of Ararat. See Migration after the Flood.

Jonathan Sarfati explains:

Suppose some finches with the genetic information for a wide variety of beaks came to the islands in a storm. And that some were on an island where the main food source was hard seeds. Birds with genes for thick and strong beaks could cope with them better, so would be better fed, and thus more likely to leave offspring. But birds on an island with few seeds but lots of grubs would do better with longer and thinner beaks, so they could poke deeper into the ground and pull out their prey.
This is indeed an example of adaptation and natural selection. But note that it actually removes alleles (gene variant) from the populations—on seed-rich islands with few grubs, information for long slender beaks would likely be lost; while the information for thick strong beaks would be lost on grub-rich (seed-poor) islands. So this change is in the opposite direction from goo-to-you evolution, which requires new genes with new information. It can hardly be over-emphasized: natural selection is not evolution; indeed natural selection was discovered by creationists before Darwin and is now an important part of the creation model.7 See:
darwin-evolution-sketch
Darwin’s original sketch

Darwin’s Tree of Life—now uprooted by evolutionists

Attenborough: “Darwin drew a sketch in one of his notebooks to illustrate his idea, showing how a single ancestral species might give rise to several different ones, and then wrote above it a tentative ‘I think’.” That was in 1837. We show the 20th-century version of this (below), as well as the ‘creationist orchard’, which gives the true representation of how species have developed within the Genesis ‘kinds’.

creation-orchird
newscienctist

Readers may be surprised to know that some evolutionists are now rejecting the concept of the evolutionary tree of life, as indicated by the cover story of New Scientist 24 January 2009. According to New Scientist Features Editor Graham Lawton (p. 34): “The tree of life … has turned out to be a figment of our imagination.” The problem involves the passing of genes from one organism to another without sexual reproduction, which may occur in bacteria for example. However, there’s nothing here to support the evolution of new kinds of plants or animals, or even micro-organisms, and evolutionists are not rejecting evolution. As the New Scientist article states (p. 39): “downgrading the tree of life doesn’t mean that the theory of evolution is wrong … it’s just that it is more complex than Darwin imagined.” See: Is the evolutionary tree turning into a creationist orchard?

Attenborough’s evidence in support of Darwin

In support of Darwin, Attenborough tells viewers that “All domestic dogs are descended from a single ancestral species—the wolf.” And he continues: “Human beings have been selecting between dogs for only a few centuries. Nature has been selecting between animals for millions of years, tens of million, even hundreds of millions of years, so what might have started out as we would consider to be breeds have now become so different they are species.”

Creationists agree that Noah only needed to take a pair of wolves on the Ark (about 4,500 years ago), from which all today’s dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals are descended, i.e. all species within the canine kind. New species can and have formed, if by definition we mean something which cannot breed with other species of the same genus, but this is not evidence for evolution, as Attenborough claims. Recombination of existing genes can produce enormous variety within a kind, but the variation is limited by the genes present. For example, if there are no genes present for producing feathers, you could breed reptiles for a billion years and you would never get feathers.

Humans can and do produce different breeds of dogs or cattle or horses, etc., but such artificial selection proceeds in the same way as natural selection, i.e. by removing genes. What we do through the exercise of much intelligence and breeding ingenuity, nature does not duplicate, nor yet exceed, by chance random processes, no matter how much time evolutionists may gratuitously allocate. See:

Darwin’s procrastination re publishing his Origin of Species

Attenborough: “Perhaps because he [Darwin] feared that his theory would cause outrage in some quarters, he delayed publishing it year after year after year.”

True. Darwin undoubtedly was aware that his theory would undermine people’s faith in God and the Bible. Prof. Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge recognised this as soon as he read the Origin. He wrote: “From first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked and served up … and why is this done? For no other reason, I am sure, than to make us independent of a Creator.”8

That his idea could and would destroy the faith of millions of believers also undoubtedly contributed to the rampant ill-health Darwin experienced, especially for the period of his life he was working on his theory. Oxford University’s Professor of Medicine Sir George Pickering diagnosed this as psychoneurosis.9 Darwin even referred to his Origin as “my accursed book”.10 See:

Darwin forced to publish by Wallace

Alfred-Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace spent 12 years researching wildlife biology in South America and the Malay Peninsula. He collected over 125,000 specimens, including over 1,000 that were new to science.

Attenborough narrates that in June 1858 Darwin received by post from Alfred Russel Wallace (then working in what is now Indonesia) “an essay that set out exactly the same idea as Darwin’s of evolution by natural selection.”

True, see Alfred Russel Wallace. This forced Darwin to write his Origin of Species in a hurry and get it published quickly to forestall Wallace getting the credit for what Darwin considered to be ‘his theory’. Darwin then spent the next 13 years revising what he had written. This involved both adding and eliminating. The 1st and 2nd Editions (published in 1859 and 1860) had 490 (text) pages each, which Darwin expanded successively over the next three editions to 579 pages in the 5th (1869) edition, and then reduced to 429 pages in the 6th (1872) Edition. This involved many thousands of changes.

In 1959, Morse Peckham, who was Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, compared all six editions of the Origin and wrote:

Of the 3,878 sentences in the first edition, nearly 3,000, about 75 per cent, were rewritten one to five times each. Over 1,500 sentences were added, and of the original sentences plus these, nearly 325 were dropped. Of the original and added sentences there are nearly 7,500 variants of all kinds.11

These figures have been updated by Dr Barbara Bordalejo, a specialist in computerized English textual criticism, in a new (2009) variorum edition of the Origin, in which she says Darwin added 1439 sentences, dropped 712 sentences, and made 17,078 word changes over the six editions.11,12

It should be noted that many changes very properly dealt with counter-arguments raised by others, and in the new Chapter VII, Miscellaneous Objections, in the 6th edition (1872), Darwin mostly addressed the many contra arguments from the biologist and Roman Catholic convert St. George Jackson Mivart (1871). E.g. Mivart anticipated the modern arguments about ‘irreducible complexity’ or ‘functionality threshold’. However, Mivart accepted evolution in general just not Darwin’s explanation, and he agreed with Wallace that it could not explain human intellect.

Darwin’s lack of evidence

Attenborough tells viewers that Wallace “had not spent 20 years gathering the mountain of evidence to support it [the mutual idea], as Darwin had done.” That being the case, viewers might expect Darwin to have expressed some conviction in what he wrote, especially as the years went by and he published six editions. However, far from being a definitive work, the Origin is saturated with conjecture. In the final 1876 printing13 of the 1872 sixth edition, Darwin employed the word “may” 642 times, “if” 493 times, “might” 203 times, “probable” or “probably” 182 times, “tend” or “tendency” 153 times, “suppose(d)” 141 times, “perhaps” 63 times, “no doubt” 58 times, “I believe” occurs 58 times, and “I think” 43 times, and so on.

Here’s a sample of Darwin-speak from p. 100 of his Origin, 6th Edition: “… variations in a single species inhabiting an isolated station might be beneficial, and thus the whole mass of individuals might be modified, or two distinct forms might arise.” (Emphases added.) But equally, they might not … might not … might not. Darwinian conjecture does not constitute a mountain of scientific evidence.

Despite the alleged “mountain of evidence” that Attenborough claims Darwin accumulated, Sir David does not quote a single sentence from Darwin’s Origin. Viewers should not be surprised at this omission, as Darwin was unable to offer any evidence of evolution by natural selection happening in his day. In Chapter 4 on Natural Selection, under the heading: “Illustrations of the Action of Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest”, Darwin wrote: “In order to make it clear how, as I believe, natural selection acts, I must beg permission to give one or two imaginary illustrations.”14 (His words, emphasis added.) Why “imaginary illustrations”? Well, when you can’t cite a single real-life example of natural selection producing anything new, the only resources left are imaginary ones. The primary one of these imaginary illustrations is about wolves chasing their prey. Darwin wrote:

… let us suppose that the fleetest prey, a deer for instance, had from any change in the country increased in numbers, or that other prey had decreased in numbers. … Under such circumstances the swiftest and slimmest wolves would have the best chance of surviving, and so be preserved or selected. … I speak of the slimmest individual wolves, and not of any single strongly-marked variation having been preserved.14
wikimedia.commonswolves-vs-bison
When wolves attack a bison, it is concerted action, not speed, that wins the day.

Actually, the facts about wolves (and similar predators) are substantially different from Darwin’s supposition, as Sir David himself has demonstrated in several of his nature TV films. Wolves prefer to hunt in packs rather than singly, and whatever their prey group is, they don’t choose the strongest and fleetest individual to attack but the weakest and slowest, which may be a juvenile or injured or old. Also wolves may attack a much larger, more formidable prey than a deer, such as a bison, if there are enough of them to overcome it, as shown.

Darwin’s other “imaginary illustration” (his words, remember) is that plants which produced flowers with the most nectar “would oftenest be visited by insects, and would oftenest be crossed, and so in the long-run would gain the upper hand and form a local variety”. Then concerning the insects involved he wrote: “… it may be believed that under certain circumstances, individual differences in the curvature or length of the proboscis, &c. … might profit a bee or other insect, so that certain individuals would be able to obtain their food more quickly than others; and thus the communities in which they belonged would flourish and throw off many swarms inheriting the same peculiarities.”14

This is a hypothetical example of natural selection, but it certainly fails as an example of evolution. The plant hasn’t turned into a sugar cane, and the bees haven’t turned into humming birds or any other kind of non-bee. Note: informed creationists have never denied the reality of natural selection, only the unscientific nature of Darwin’s claims about it. For example, plant geneticist Dr John Sanford (co-inventor of the gene gun) has shown that natural selection does not even have the power to save the genome from genetic entropy; see Plant geneticist: ‘Darwinian evolution is impossible’. For further discussion on the total failure of Darwinism as a scientific mechanism, see Would Darwin be a Darwinist today?

Dating rocks from fossils and fossils from rocks

We have often alerted readers to the evolutionists’ ploy of dating rocks from the fossils they contain, and then dating fossils from the rocks they are in. It’s called ‘circular reasoning’ and Attenborough is adept at it. He shows viewers some rocks in northern Scotland which he says are “compacted sand that was laid down at the bottom of the sea, layer upon layer upon layer”, and he says: “We know from fossils that are associated with them that they are very ancient.” Then: “… a fossil species if it comes from a particular layer is of a particular age.” (Emphasis added.)

Did you pick the ploy? If not, read the words in bold again! However, a more likely origin of the sand layers from northern Scotland, based on Attenborough’s description of “layer upon layer upon layer”, is that they were laid down during Noah’s Flood (some 4,500 years ago), with minimal time (e.g. hours or days at the most) between layers. See also Unmasking a long-age icon (Siccar Point).

Archaeopteryx and the platypus: not missing links

Steve CardnoArtist reconstruction
Artist reconstruction of how Archaeopteryx may have appeared

Moving on, Attenborough says:

Darwin’s theory … required that there should be connections not just between similar species, but between great animal groups. If fishes and reptiles and birds and mammals all evolved from one another, then surely there must be intermediate forms between those great groups. And they were missing. And then, just two years after the publication of the Origin of Species … the most astonishing fossil … had been found … . And this is it: It’s called Archaeopteryx. … It was part reptile, part bird. Here was a link between those two great groups that was no longer missing.

So what are the facts? Yes, the first of 12 known fossils of Archaeopteryx was found in 1861, and it does have a number of unusual features, which Attenborough lists. These include feathers on its wings, down on its tail, claws on the front of its wings, no beak but jaws with teeth in it, and a line of bones supporting its tail.

So did Darwin regard this new fossil as a “part-reptile, part-bird link between those two great groups” (as claimed by Attenborough), and thus as an answer to the immense problem he faced, namely that his theory needed an enormous number of intermediate varieties and that they were all missing from the fossil record? In 1859, he had written: “Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection that can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”15

Darwin mentions the new fossil first in the 1866 4th edition of the Origin:

[T]hat strange bird, Archeopteryx, [sic] with a long lizard-like tail, bearing a pair of feathers on each joint, and with wings furnished with two free claws, has been discovered in the oolitic states of Solenhofen.16 Hardly any recent discovery shows more forcibly than this how little we as yet know of the former inhabitants of the world.17

Note: not one word from Darwin about its being what he desperately needed—an intermediate between reptiles and birds! Modern evolutionists feel the same way. See:

Attenborough’s other [non-]evidence for Darwinism is the platypus, about which he says:

It’s part mammal and part reptile … it lays eggs. It’s this that links the platypus with the reptiles, and this that entitles it to be regarded as the most primitive living mammal.
commons.wikimedia.org: Stefan Kraftplatypus
The platypus is a baffling enigma to evolutionists, not a ‘transitional’ form.

Actually, the platypus, found only in the eastern parts of Australia, is a huge problem for evolutionists as to what on earth it could have evolved from, as there is nothing in the fossil record to indicate that the platypus was ever anything other than a platypus. It was created on Day 6 of Creation Week, some 6,000 years ago, along with all other mammals. It thus fails as a living ‘transitional’ form, but rather is a truly unique creature, and one that continues to baffle those who insist on trying to make it fit into an evolutionary tree.

Modern research has shown that the platypus genome is just another example of a species containing a mixed (or ‘mosaic’) assortment of parts. Despite the evolutionary hype associated with its sequencing, the platypus genome most assuredly does not support the idea that it shares a common ancestor with the rest of the mammals, birds, and reptiles. See:

Attenborough and the Cambrian problem

One of the many problems for evolutionists is the fact that fossils of almost every major group (phyla) of animals appear abruptly in what they call the Cambrian period (‘dated’ according to evolutionary dating methods about 500 million years ago), without any known transitional forms preceding them. Attenborough attempts to answer this problem by telling viewers two things, namely that in 1957 a schoolboy found a fossil in Charnwood forest (near Leicester, U.K.) called Charnia; and that jellyfish fossils have been found in the Ediacra Hills of Australia.

He expanded on Charnia in another program, which we have answered, so we refer readers to this. See David Attenborough’s First Life: Arrival.

The finding of soft-bodied jellyfish fossils means conditions must have been highly favourable for the process of fossilization to have occurred. However, this merely highlights the lack of ancestors to the huge number of animals that first appear in the Cambrian. Thus a better explanation for the sudden appearance of these fossils is that they are the product of Noah’s Flood some 4,500 years ago, with their ancestors having been created by God some 6,000 years ago, and are not the product of an unexplained ‘explosion of life’ some 500 million years ago. See:

Radiometric dating

The evolution myth requires millions of years. But that’s a huge problem when no such time frame has existed. Attenborough’s solution is to invoke radiometric dating. He tells viewers that “less than 50 years after the publication of the Origin … a Polish woman working in Paris, Marie Curie, discovered that some rocks contain an element called uranium.” And he goes on to show viewers a sample taken from rocks in Charnwood Forest, and to say: “these tiny crystals are revealed to be 562 million years old.”

Incorrect on several counts. Uranium was discovered by the German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1789. Marie Curie discovered two other elements, one of which was polonium (which she named after her home country of Poland); the other was radium (which she so-named because it was radioactive). Furthermore, responsible scientists do not claim such precision for radiometric dates as the one given, and for good reason. See:

Attenborough’s answer to ‘design’

Viewers are introduced to the 19th-century argument by clergyman and strong slavery opponent William Paley that a watch requires a designer, and similarly something as intricate as the human eye must have been designed by God. Darwin did in fact admit in Chapter 6 of his Origin that the eye appeared to be a problem for natural selection, but (as Attenborough goes on to say) Darwin claimed it was not an insurmountable problem,18 especially if one begins, as Darwin did, with “the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane”!19 For our response, see:

DNA—not a magic bullet to propel evolutionary surmises

Attenborough introduces DNA as “a complex molecule that’s found in the genes of all animals”, and he tells viewers: “A gene taken from one animal can function in another. The gene that causes a jellyfish to be luminous, for example, transplanted into a mouse will make that mouse luminous.” (Emphases added!)

Very interesting, especially when we can see the luminous mouse in the TV program, scampering about. However, no one has ever seen a luminous mouse outside of a laboratory experiment, so it would seem that the only thing that this is evidence for is the fact that nature does not do this, and has never done this in the alleged 500 million years since the supposed Cambrian explosion of animal life.

Also, this is hardly news to creationists. CMI geneticist Dr Robert Carter has cloned coral genes that code for green and red fluorescent proteins, patented them,20 and transferred them into a zebra fish and made them glow with those colours.21

Attenborough goes on to say, concerning the genetic code:

The genetic code can also reveal relationships. … It proves, for example, that kangaroos—ground-living animals that run with great leaps—are closely related to koalas that have taken to climbing trees; that insect-eating shrews have cousins that took to the air in search of insects—bats. And that one branch of the elephant family, way back in geological history, took to the water and became sea cows.

He fails to offer any data in support of any of these claims, but proceeds to encapsulate in a few sentences the whole evolutionary fantasy that life “began in the sea … … …” [ending with] “we are as closely related to chimpanzees and the rest of the apes and monkeys, as say lions are to tigers and to the rest of the cat family.” For our refutation of each stage of this story-telling, see:

Conclusions

Attenborough concludes by repeating his denial of what God says in Genesis:

But above all, Darwin has shown us that we are not apart from the natural world. We do not have dominion over it. We are subject to its laws and processes, as are all other animals on Earth, to which indeed we are related.

By contrast, we conclude with the affirmation that God’s eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen in the things that He has made, so much so that those who deny God are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Furthermore, we can have a personal relationship with this Almighty God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, through and by whom the entire created order came to be (John 1:1–3, Colossians 1:15–17, Hebrews 1:2). See Here’s the Good News.

References and notes

  1. Originally released in the UK in February 2009, it has been re-shown in Australia on TV Network Ten’s Channel One in September 2015, and so we take this opportunity to review it. Return to text.
  2. Desmond, A., and Moore, J., Darwin, Penguin Books, London, 1991, p. 172. Return to text.
  3. Desmond, A., and Moore, J., Ref. 2, p. 209. Return to text.
  4. Darwin, C., Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, John Murray, London, 2nd Ed. 1845, pp. 379–80. Return to text.
  5. Darwin mentions three species of Galápagos mocking-thrush in the Origin 6th edition, pp. 356-57, but not in connection with any evolutionary theory. Return to text.
  6. Desmond, A., and Moore, J., Ref. 2, p. 328. Return to text.
  7. Sarfati, J., Refuting Evolution 2, pp. 72–73, Creation Book Publishers, 2011. (Emphasis in the original.) Return to text.
  8. Letter of Adam Sedgwick to Miss Gerard, 2 January 1860, in The Life and Letters of the Rev. Adam Sedgwick 2:359–360, 1890. Return to text.
  9. Psychoneurosis is mental disorder that causes a sense of distress and deficit in functioning, characterized by anxiety, depression, or other feelings of unhappiness or distress that are out of proportion to the circumstances of a person’s life. Prof. Pickering wrote: “The case for a psychoneurosis is first that the symptoms suggest it, and, taken in their entirety, they fit nothing else. Second, there is no evidence that any physical signs were ever found as they should have been after forty years of organic disease, and Darwin consulted the best physicians of his day. … Third, the circumstances precipitating the attacks are right. Fourth, the illness got better towards the end of his life, which is quite unlike organic disease. Lastly, no other diagnosis that has been proposed, or that I can think of, fits all the facts.”—Pickering, G., Creative Malady, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1974, p. 142. Return to text.
  10. C. Darwin to J.D. Hooker, 1 September 1859, Darwin Correspondence Project, Letter No. 2485, darwinproject.ac.uk. Return to text.
  11. As reported by Bordalejo, B., in her Introduction to the Online Variorum of Darwin’s Origin of Species, 2009. A variorum is a work in which all editions or versions of a text are printed side by side for easy comparison. Return to text.
  12. Bordalejo says differences between her variorum figures and Peckham’s are “because different things are being counted”. Also she says her numbers “do not include the additional Chapter” i.e. VII. Return to text.
  13. Labelled in 1876 by the publisher, John Murray, as “final text”. Return to text.
  14. Darwin online, Origin of Species, pp. 70 ff., 6th edition, 1872. Return to text.
  15. Darwin online. Origin of Species , 1st Edition, p. 280, 1859. Return to text.
  16. Oolite, from the Greek for ‘egg stone’, is a sedimentary rock formed from ooids, spherical grains formed of concentric layers of minerals precipitated from strong solutions. Solenhofen is in Bavaria, Germany. Return to text.
  17. Darwin online, Origin of Species, 4th edition, p. 367, 1866. Return to text.
  18. In our article “Arguments we think creationists should not use” we list Darwin’s quote about the absurdity of eye evolution from his Origin of Species. This is because citing his statement at face value is subtly out of context. Darwin was talking about its seeming absurdity, but then said that after all it was quite easy to imagine that the eye could be built step-by-step (in his opinion, with which we obviously disagree). Return to text.
  19. Darwin online. Origin of Species , 6th Edition, p. 145, 1872. Return to text.
  20. Gibbs, P.D.L., Carter, R.W., and Schmale, M.C., Fluorescent Proteins from Aquatic Species, US Patent #7, 291, 711, 2007. Return to text.
  21. Carter, R.W., Schmale M.S., and Gibbs, P.D.L., Cloning of anthozoan fluorescent protein genes, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C 138:259–270, 2004. Return to text.

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Reader’s comments

Murk P.
Great article- thank you for your hard work - thinking correctly which entails submission to the Mighty One!

"Attenborough concludes by repeating his denial of what God says in Genesis:"

"But above all, Darwin has shown us that we are not apart from the natural world.

All animals have pondered this.
How can there be an apart from if there is no apart (natural is all there is Mr. A claims)
Using the English language with its dependence on the law of identity and such to convey this meaningful idea betrays his original position
Can't but work for the Allmighty Mr. A



"We do not have dominion over it."

As he eats steak, lettuce and fish cultivated in farms

Much like Pelicans carefully construct and maintain white fish farms

And we male people have to be ever so careful not to become a studs in the grizzly bears human farms

"We are subject to its laws and processes, "

Mr.A has produced a lot of documentaries propagating his purpose exercising his dominion over creation

Terribly selfish not to leave space for the orangutang to publish his view

Oh wait what is selfish? I almost forgot there is nothing apart from nature

Furthermore said laws could not exist when the whole enterprise got started....



"as are all other animals on Earth, to which indeed we are related."

I've read similar notions written by snails, penguins and fin whales
Terry W.
"Attenborough’s solution is to invoke radiometric dating"

Ah, yes. And right in the program we have a very important clue as to the pitfalls of radiometric dating, prior to which, the program shows micrographs of zircon crystals similar to those Dr. Russell Humphreys raises questions about the validity of U-Pb decay rate assumptions based on the more reliable process of helium diffusion, but I digress.

A button on a computer screen that says "Calculate Age". As opposed to "Measure Age", since age is not what is being measured in radiometric dating. What is actually being measured is the relative abundances of atomic nuclides related by radioactive decay processes, and the age is calculated on the basic assumption that no processes other than radioactive decay have affected these abundances, and other assumptions which are even more doubtful. Examples abound in literature of rocks only a few years to sometimes as little as minutes old being dated to millions of years. We know how old the rocks are if we believe the guy who sent in the sample saying that he watched it form at Mt. St. Helens, or Mt. Etna, or Mauna Kea, or Surtsey, or whatever, on a particular day. Even if one argues that the lava is millions of years old, there is still the huge problem that it's obvious we can't tell from radiometric measurements when the rock actually formed.

Dear Ed., in researching this comment, I discovered a broken link here:

http://creation.com/blowing-old-earth-belief-away-helium

A link to here:

[link deleted per feedback rules]ID=302

has moved to here:

[link deleted per feedback rules]

Unlike CMI, ICR oddly decided not to continue supporting links to numbered articles. Thanks for doing so!
Terry D P.
Methinks the title “The Tree of Life” is a misnomer. The book would be more aptly titled “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Doesn’t the Bible warn us that eating the fruit of this “tree of the science of good and evil” will result in death?
Trevor G.
This is a very clear and precise rebuttal of Attenborough's statements and methods.

It should be compulsory reading for all high school students.

Attenborough consistently misrepresents Darwin and does no favours to himself or the evolutionary paradigm. I must say though that his photography is excellent, but his reasoning is flawed.

Oh that God's Holy Spirit would convince Attenborough of the indescribable marvel, complexity and power of the Creator's work.
Michael S.
What a splendid article. Profound thanks to CMI and Russell Grigg for this excellent logic and rebuttal of the unscientific just-so stories circulated by knighted (but benighted) TV programme makers. How sad that such an article cannot be broadcast via major media and included in school science books.
David G.
Thanks for re-publishing this great article. As I was watching the Tree of Life I mused over the phrase 'survival of the fittest'. It has a sort of compelling idealism, or 'purity' to it which is not reflective of the messiness of life. A far more accurate, but far less compelling statement is 'survival of the least unfit at the time', or even 'survival of the luckiest'. Both phrases put paid to the grand progressive fantasy of evolutionary dogma.

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