Creationists are slightly bonkers, says award-winning BBC broadcaster
Published: 15 February 2011 (GMT+10)
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
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
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.
References and notes
- The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 1 February, 2011. Return to text.
- 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.
- Gilbert, Scott et al., Resynthesizing Evolutionary and Developmental Biology, Developmental Biology 173:357’372, 1996. Return to text.
- See also Bergmann, J., The century-and-a-half failure in the quest for the source of new genetic information. Return to text.
- 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.
- 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. Return to text.
- 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.
- 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.
- Darwin, C., Letter to Joseph Hooker, 29 March 1863; www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-4065.html. Return to text.
- 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.
- Ref. 11, p. 468. darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=side&pageseq=1. Return to text.
- Ref. 8, p. 120. darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F1497&viewtype=text&pageseq=1. Return to text.
- 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.
- Denton, M., Evolution: A theory in crisis, ch. 7, Adler & Adler, Bethesda, Maryland, 1986. Return to text.
- Fix, W.R., The Bone Peddlers, p. 211, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1984. Return to text.